Pennsylvania: No Prison Time for Guards Convicted of Abusing Prisoners

By Christopher Zoukis

A former Pennsylvania prison guard who was convicted on 27 counts of abusing prisoners will serve no prison time of his own, after a state court sentenced him to five years’ probation and six months on house arrest.

Harry Nicoletti, 61, was convicted of numerous counts of official oppression, simple assault, criminal solicitation and terrorist threats, as well as three counts of indecent exposure. He was acquitted of more serious charges of involuntary deviant sexual intercourse and institutional sexual assault.

The jury reached its verdict after deliberating three days following an 11-day trial that included 58 witnesses, some of them prisoners who recanted their earlier statements against Nicoletti. Charges against four other prison guards had previously been dropped.

Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge David Cashman could have sentenced Nicoletti to up to 18 months in prison, but instead told him, “I’m sparing you from the danger you posed to the individuals you were in charge of.”

Nicoletti was originally indicted on 117 criminal charges following his arrest in September 2011. He was accused of being the ringleader of a group of six guards at SCI Pittsburgh who targeted sex offenders and homosexual prisoners for abuse that included sexual assaults, beatings, tainting food with urine and feces, and other mistreatment. [See: PLN, Nov. 2012, p.40; April 2012, p.1]. “It was evil for evil’s sake,” said Allegheny County Assistant District Attorney Jon Pittman at Nicoletti’s March 27, 2013 sentencing hearing.

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Education Encouragement

By Jon Antonucci  Jon Antonucci / Image courtesy

After being incarcerated for over four years now, I have arrived at the undeniable conclusion that obtaining an education while in prison is nothing short of difficult. Despite the perception of the public that inmates are being rehabilitated while in the system, the reality of the situation is that opportunities for rehabilitation – specifically in regards to higher learning are often quite difficult to come by. Those who do wish to improve themselves may find themselves fighting an uphill battle to gain any sort of accredited education. 

Granted there are plenty of “career colleges” who will gladly receive compensation for their unaccredited  courses. And while their programs may be reasonably affordable, and boast the successes of a “certification” or even a degree, most of the diplomas and certificates that one will earn are not worth the  paper they are  printed on.  Sadly, many so-called “Bible Colleges” are a part of this scam. Those who are looking to increase their knowledge should beware those educators who will delightedly accept one’s money, but who cannot verify their accreditation. (Also be careful to double check accreditors. as several accreditation groups have recently surfaced to “accredit” schools who will pay them enough money, but who are not able to be accredited through legitimate means.)

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