After Halfway House Death, Family Wants Answers
Last Saturday was supposed to be a big day for Lisa Sodano. Maurice Ingersoll, her fiance, was going to take her shopping for a wedding ring. She woke up early and drove from Bucks County to Community Corrections Center No. 2 (CCC2), a squat, gray concrete building with dirty windows at Eighth and Spring Garden streets.
But by the time she arrived, Ingersoll was dead — and Sodano believes the staff and conditions at CCC2 are to blame. The halfway house run by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) is the worst-performing one in the state, according to a recent study that damned the system as ineffective.
Seventy men live at CCC2. Sodano visited Ingersoll, 39, nearly every day since he was paroled there on March 4. It had been tough. Ingersoll, whom Sodano met at the trailer park where she and his mother, Deborah Smith, lived, was depressed. He had, according to his family, borderline-personality disorder and had been prescribed propranolol, trazodone and venlafaxine for his anxiety.
Last week, however, Sodano was optimistic: Ingersoll was coming home soon. But when they spoke Friday night, Ingersoll was furious. He complained that his counselor was never in the office, and his day pass for Saturday had not yet been approved. The counselor treated white residents especially poorly, the family alleges, and had taken her time in approving his home plan. “They treated them like a piece of shit,” says Sodano, who believes prison was a more humane environment. “At least when my man, when these men, are locked up, they get hot showers, three square meals a day.”
On Saturday, Sodano pulled up at CCC2 at 7:20 a.m. While she was waiting for Ingersoll, a fire truck, an ambulance and police cars arrived. Minutes later, a halfway-house resident walked up to her truck.
“He said, ‘Mama, I’m about to tell you something, but whatever you do don’t get out the truck until I walk away, because I could get in trouble.’ He said, ‘Mama, your man’s dead.’” A coroner later told the family he had overdosed on opiates.
Sodano and Smith say the halfway house drove Ingersoll to desperation. One resident told Sodano drugs were available inside and said a resident had given Ingersoll Percocet, an opiate. The Philadelphia medical examiner told CP that his death had been ruled an accident caused by drug intoxication, but would not reveal toxicological details.
State halfway houses have recently been the subject of considerable criticism — most prominently from state Corrections Secretary John Wetzel. A February DOC report found that 67 percent of inmates paroled to the 38 privately run and 14 state-run halfway houses are re-arrested or re-incarcerated within three years, making them more likely to recidivate than offenders released directly to the street.
CCC2 has the highest recidivism rate of any large halfway house in Pennsylvania. It provides no medical or mental-health services on site, though residents are supposedly subject to drug screening. “Medical or mental-health services are provided in the community,” says DOC press secretary Susan McNaughton, who declined to comment on Ingersoll’s death specifically. “If a resident has a need for such services, they would … go to the hospital or clinic.” But the family says Ingersoll needed permission to make such a visit, and did not see a mental-health professional during his stay. “It wasn’t like he could just walk out there and go,” says Sodano.
Maurice Ingersoll (center) in 2008 at his brother's wedding. Photo courtesy of Deborah Smith.
And Ingersoll needed those services. His stay at CCC2 stemmed from a 2007 arson arrest. The family says he had attempted to set fire to the home of dealers who had sold bad drugs to his younger brother. “There were some very poorly-put-together Molotov cocktails,” says Bensalem detective John Monaghan. “He was a very bad arsonist.”
Ingersoll began experiencing problems with his medication last week, says Sodano. He had two visits with a doctor at the Public Health Management Corp.’s Care Clinic. She says his prescription was altered on the second visit, and that he later requested help from his counselor but did not receive any. While McNaughton notes there are toll-free numbers for reporting mistreatment, Sodano says Ingersoll told her to stop calling his parole officer to complain. His counselor had allegedly said it would “cause a problem.”
“This program was to integrate these men out into society,” says Sodano. “They’re not doing that. They’re being abused. And now, because of that abuse, my man is dead.”
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