PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The state is taking another look at how they place criminals in work release centers.
This comes after two offenders recently walked away from a local facility and then shot people, including a cop who was paralyzed.
James Robert Hill is accused of shooting and paralyzing Pittsburgh Police officer Morgan Jenkins.
He was a wanted man after escaping from Gateway Braddock — a halfway house where inmates can to walk away at any time.
Mayor John Fetterman says hill shouldn’t have been there.
“It has to be for non-violent offenders,” Fetterman said. “Isn’t that what bricks and mortar and jail bars are for — the violence offender are for violent offenders who are a clear and present danger to the community.”
But Hill had a very violent past. At Gateway he was serving out a sentence for aggravated assault, resisting arrest, terroristic threats and illegal gun charges.
He’s not alone. Another inmate — Rudy Davis was at Gateway Braddock on charges of illegal gun possession, resisting arrest and drug sales — when he was arrested for a murder in the hill district three months before.
“I don’t like to think with two small children of my own that people are being released into our community with a history of violence,” Fetterman said.
Gateway is run by the gateway rehabilitation institute and provides treatment for drug and alcohol addiction — which they say is at the root of criminal behavior. They call Davis and Hill two of the program’s rare failures.
“The vast majority of folks who come to our center, successfully complete, obtain jobs, find places to live and are returned to the community,” Richard Foster with Gateway Rehabilitation said.
Gateway will not take murderers, arsonists or rapists — and while the state will be implementing even stiffer placement guidelines — right now people like hill can still be placed here.
He fought with police and he shot a police officer.
“And I can tell you what the department of correction and provider will be doing coming in the community. they’re going to be assigned a risk level high, medium or low,” Foster said.
Whether these changes make this community safer remains to be seen. What is clear is that under the current system many violent criminals have fallen through the cracks.