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Delco Inmate Who Died from Overdose was Left Unattended for More Than One Hour

(This article first appeared in Broad + Liberty.)

An inmate who died of an overdose at the intake department of the Delaware County prison last June was left alone for more than an hour despite the fact that the intake sergeant had already noticed that the woman was on some kind of drug.

According to an incident report obtained by Broad + Liberty through a Right to Know Law request, the intake sergeant noticed that when Tiffany Koser was being checked into the George W. Hill Correctional Facility (GWHCF), she “noticed that Koser appeared to be under the influence of something.”

That was at 9:00 p.m., according to the document.

“I told officer Hemmings to leave the [incarcerated person] on the unit so I can give her a drug test by urine,” the sergeant went on to write in the report. “After completing the discharge run, I went to cell 135 at 2222 [10:22 p.m.] I began knocking on the cell window and received no response from Koser.”


The county declined to answer any questions about the matter.


The Koser incident in June was the third of five deaths at the GWHCF in 2023. In November, the fifth death in the facility was an inmate who also died of an overdose. Broad + Liberty has filed a Right to Know request for that incident as well, and those documents are expected to be produced by the county before the end of the month.

Court documents indicate Koser was sentenced to serve 45 weekends for a DUI in Radnor Township sometime in 2022. She had several moving vehicle cases in Montgomery County, including another DUI charge from February 2022 in Worcester Township.

Broad + Liberty was unable to locate any family members of Koser to speak with.

A source with intimate knowledge of the prison said the revelations in the document should be concerning to Delaware County citizens.

“For a year and a half, there has been a pattern of preventable incidents. This incident reflects a systemic failure, in which an officer was successful in recognizing that an individual was under the influence of an unknown substance but did not notify medical staff so the individual could be evaluated and properly observed,” the source said. “Instead, the woman was put back in a cell by themselves and found unresponsive an hour later. To my knowledge, this sergeant is relatively new, so this seems to be an issue of proper training as well as staffing. I believe high turnover has forced people with little experience into these roles that, unfortunately, the prison hasn’t properly prepared them for.”

The source was granted anonymity because of concerns of career or political retaliation.

A spreadsheet of total payroll from 2022 previously obtained by Broad + Liberty shows that the sergeant earned just over five figures that year, suggesting that she was hired late that year. If that assumption is correct, the sergeant would have had less than a year on the job when the death occurred.

The revelations about the Koser incident come just as two guards were arrested this month for smuggling fentanyl into the prison. The arrest affidavits and supporting documents did not indicate the two guards were dealing to inmates, however.

The GWHCF has been a flashpoint in the county over the last decade as it was the last privately run prison in the commonwealth. Delaware County Democrats like Kevin Madden and Christine Reuther campaigned on deprivatizing it, which, after being elected in 2019, they set about doing.

The management of the facility officially transitioned from GEO Group to the county in April of 2022, although the county’s handpicked warden, Laura Williams, began her tenure with the prison on January 31 of that year.

Since then, the county has mostly achieved its goal of lowering the daily population. In media reports from late 2022, the county said it had lowered the daily population by about twenty percent.

However, other metrics and evidence show a prison that is in turmoil.

Ten total deaths have occurred at the prison since Warden Williams took the helm. That includes four suicides, one murder, one “delayed homicide,” two overdoses, and a medical emergency for an inmate while playing basketball. The cause of death for one inmate is still not known to Broad + Liberty at this time.

Those numbers far exceed those from the previous decade when eight inmates died over a three-year period under GEO’s management — something characterized by the prison’s Wikipedia page as a “controversy.” That would equate to about 2.6 inmate deaths per year, while the county is currently averaging five deaths per year under county control.

Additionally, that comparison assumes a steady prison population across those years, which isn’t the case. The death rate in the last two years has been greater given that the monthly population generally averaged close to 1,700 under GEO’s management, and has averaged closer to 1,200 under county management. More deaths are happening across a smaller number of prisoners.

Prior to the county’s takeover, it said reducing the recidivism rate was its top priority, but the facility’s own statistics show that the rate has remained pegged near 60 percent — basically identical to what it was under GEO.

Fetterman Says Magic Mushrooms Could Be ‘Economic Boom’ for PA

It’s not every day that the phrase “magic mushrooms” turns up in U.S. Senate proceedings. But leave it to Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) to make it happen. Now critics say he is high on his own supply.

During a Senate agriculture subcommittee hearing last week, Fetterman spoke favorably about psilocybin mushrooms, claiming the mind-altering fungi can provide both economic and mental health benefits to growers and users. Fetterman has also long advocated the legalization of marijuana, writing on his campaign website that weed “should be legal, nationwide.”

Psychedelics aside, mushrooms are a major part of Pennsylvania’s agricultural economy. Chester County’s Kennett Square is known as the “Mushroom Capital of the World,” and the American Mushroom Institute says more than 60 percent of all mushrooms produced in the U.S. come from the region.

Reps. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) and Dan Meuser (R-Pa.) have introduced the Protecting Mushroom Farmers Act mandating a federal study on crop insurance benefits for mushroom farmers. Fetterman and fellow Democrat Sen. Bob Casey filed companion legislation in the Senate.

According to Fetterman, the mushroom industry employs nearly 9,500 Pennsylvanians and contributes an estimated $2.7 billion to the local economy. But “magic mushrooms” are not part of the mix.

“I’ve been an advocate of psychedelics in terms of the magic mushrooms for PTSDs and for veterans especially,” the senator said during the hearing. He argued psychedelics could present an “amazing economic kind of boom” for growers in the state and “a revolution in mental health.”

Witness Chris Alonzo, a Kennett Square mushroom farmer, quickly tried to steer the conversation away from mind-altering drugs, speaking more broadly on the need to “create healthy food for the community.”

Fetterman briefly persisted, claiming the U.S. “should have more research in microdosing and other issues” before ultimately dropping the issue.

The use of psilocybin mushrooms has been hotly debated among mycologists and drug regulators. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists the drug as “a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.”

DEA literature claims that persistent substance usage can lead to “longer, more intense ‘trip’ episodes, challenging experiences (physical and emotional), psychosis, and possible death.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs did not comment directly on Fetterman’s remarks, though a spokeswoman pointed to the portion of the Pennsylvania code that lists psilocybin as a “controlled substance.” Like the DEA, Pennsylvania claims psilocybin has “a high potential for abuse; no currently accepted medical use in the United States; and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.”

In contrast, Michael Beug, professor emeritus at the Evergreen State College in Washington State, downplayed the alleged dangers of mushrooms.

“Psilocybin mushrooms are anti-addictive (abuse them, and you do not get hooked, they quit working),” he said. “There is no known LD-50 (lethal dose in 50 percent of the population).”

“At a ‘heroic dose’ (full-scale hallucinations), the therapeutic effects can last months to years, and in some cases, even one trip can change a person for a lifetime,” he claimed, though he added “guidance is essential” as “the trip can be terrifying and unguided trips can lead to very bad decisions while tripping.

“In addition to the original, intriguing studies in the 1960s,” he continued, “serious research resumed in the late 1990s, and now dozens of major research institutions (mainly in the U.S. and Europe) have programs underway.” He called the potential therapeutic quality of the mushrooms “absolutely a ‘revolution in mental health.’”

Not everyone agrees.

“When it comes to significant side effects, experts’ primary worry about ketamine, psilocybin, and other hallucinogens, like LSD or ayahuasca, is that they can trigger a psychotic or manic episode,” The New York Times reported.

Opposition to ‘Safe Injection Sites’ Brings GOP, Dems Together in Happy Unity

In a rare moment of bipartisanship between the normally warring parties, Pennsylvania Democrats and Republicans—including state Gov. Josh Shapiro—have formed a unified opposition to “supervised injection sites” in Pennsylvania.

Supervised injection sites are controversial facilities in which drug users can go to consume illegal substances while being watched by trained staff. Advocates claim the sites save lives by allowing drug addicts to get high without fear of a fatal overdose.

The Pennsylvania Senate passed a bill this month—S.B. 165—that would ban those sites across the state. Every Republican senator and 13 Democratic senators voted in favor of it, while nine Democrats voted against it.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery), told DVJournal that Democrats and Republicans came together on the bill “because nobody wants a safe injection site in their district.”

“When you think about a ‘safe injection site’ for illegal drugs, it’s just an oxymoron,” she argued. “You’re going to ask a nurse to inject a drug addict with an illegal drug, and you don’t know the potency or the efficacy or the component of what’s in that drug. All under the guise of, ‘Well, if we offer safe injection sites, they won’t overdose.’

“But you’re operating with a drug you have absolutely no knowledge of what’s in it, how quickly it’s going to work, how effective it is, and what constitutes a good dosage. It’s just a bad idea.”

The Senate bill would outlaw “the operation of a clinic or establishment that knowingly provides space for any person to inject, ingest, inhale or otherwise introduce into the person’s body a controlled substance.”

Pennycuick argued that there are “great programs in Pennsylvania” to help people kick drug habits. “We have methadone clinics, suboxone clinics,” she said.

“We need to help these people on drugs get off them and get clean,” she said. “We don’t need ‘safe injection sites.’ That’s just enabling their disease instead.”

Gov. Josh Shapiro has also voiced his opposition to the sites, a likely indicator that he will sign a ban that makes it through the legislature. He had previously come out against them as state attorney general and re-affirmed his opposition to them in December.

The facilities are also opposed at the local level. Montgomery County Republican Committee Chair Christian Nascimento told DVJournal: “There is bipartisan opposition to supervised injection sites because it’s common sense that they make neighborhoods less safe and do not actually help the people struggling with addiction.”

“Montgomery County’s Republican officials and candidates will continue to speak out against them because it is the right thing to do for the community,” he added.

Some evidence suggests supervised injection sites have a positive effect on drug use mortality.

A 2017 review in Canadian Family Physician suggests the facilities are “associated with lower overdose mortality … 67 percent fewer ambulance calls for treating overdoses, and a decrease in HIV infections.”

The federal government this month, meanwhile, announced a $5 million study to determine the efficacy of injection sites here in the U.S. The data will be drawn from locations in New York and Rhode Island.

DelVal Hit With Crime Wave

Comic Collection owner David Schwartz operated in Feasterville for decades without problems, until two masked men barged into his establishment last month while he was doing inventory.

One claimed to be searching for his wallet, but shocking footage showed one of the men swiping a ladder out from underneath the store owner’s feet with the ferocity of a linebacker as he reached for a statue on a shelf. Schwartz tumbled to the ground, cracking his ribs as the two men beat and kicked him, then bound him with zip ties. One brandished a knife, and the men demanded Schwartz instruct them how to open the cash register before stuffing about $16,000 worth of merchandise into duffel bags.

Before leaving the store, they lifted one final keepsake off Schwartz – a Mickey Mouse watch his father bought him as a boy. Luckily, a neighbor noticed the suspicious men and called police who rescued the store owner.

“I’m very happy that I’m here today to talk to you about this. I don’t want to see it happen to anyone else ever,” Schwartz said during a state House committee hearing convened last week by lawmakers raising alarms about crime infiltrating the suburbs of Philadelphia.

Law-enforcement officials from Bucks and Montgomery counties testified about a stark uptick in violent crime and property crimes and identified increasingly scary drug trends in other parts of the state. There were reports of fentanyl being packaged up like “Skittles and Razzles” along with another deadly drug, xylazine, known as “tranq,” that has overtaken Philadelphia’s heroin and fentanyl supply.

Some former prosecutors and law-enforcement officials attribute it to a “spillover effect” from Philadelphia, which set a record for homicides last year and has seen more than 1,000 carjackings in 2022.

“It’s the disorder in Philly. It’s an open-air crime market, and they’re not prosecuting any crimes. It’s the Kranser effect,” said Tom Hogan, former Chester County district attorney, referring to the city’s progressive DA who lawmakers are trying to impeach.

In Cheltenham, for example, the number of strong-armed robberies has doubled, Sgt. Michael Moore said. In Warrington, about 35 miles north of Philadelphia, Police Chief Dan Friel testified about a more than 360 percent spike in credit card frauds from last year, along with several robberies of the local Target. Many out-of-town fraudsters come to Warrington to commit crime knowing they’re less likely to be recognized.

Separately, Guy Ciarrocchi, a Republican running for Congress in Chester and Berks counties, told DVJournal about a carjacking at a Target in Devon, an armed robbery at a Whole Foods in Tredyffrin and a stabbing at a Bertucci’s on Lancaster Avenue in Wayne.

Grab-and-go shoplifters have targeted suburban stores like Lowes, Home Depot and Walmart, in part, law-enforcement officials say, because they’re viewed by criminals as “soft targets.”

“These guys are like our Border Patrol,” Rep. Frank Farry (R-Langhorne) said during the hearing of law enforcement’s efforts to contain the spread of violence.

It’s hard to determine whether crime is up statewide after the FBI transitioned to a new data collection system, called the National Incident-Based Reporting System. The FBI estimated that murders rose 4 percent nationwide compared with 2020 while overall violent crime was down about 1 percent. But the report was incomplete because thousands of law enforcement agencies hadn’t submitted data, according to the Marshall Project. Only 40 of more than 1,500 in Pennsylvania had done so.

In Bensalem, Public Safety Director Bill McVey said of the more than 3,800 crimes reported to his department in 2021, about 1,700 were serious offenses such as murder, rape and robber.

Crime was up about 12 percent from the previous year, and 42 percent of arrests in 2021 were people from Philadelphia, some out on bail for other crimes, McVey said.

Officials say the spike is due to several factors that included laxer prosecutions of certain crimes in the city, decriminalization of retail thefts under $500, lack of proactive policing that has hamstrung Philly officers and an increase in people who resorted to drugs to cope with mental health issues exacerbated by COVID-19.

“Crime is very real here,” Rep. Todd Polinchock (R-Chalfont) said at the hearing. “A lot of folks are worried for themselves, their kids. There’s a rash of crime going on now and we have to get ahold of it.”

Matt Weintraub, the Republican district attorney of Bucks County, claimed about 70 percent of crimes in in Bucks County were related  or fueled by drugs and alcohol.

With an influx of cases overwhelming local medical and jail systems, Weintraub has pushed for the county to build a crisis stabilization unit, dubbed “Stable U,” on land that could be acquired from a local health provider for $1. Local government officials so far secured $5 million toward the project, which needs another $5 to $7 million to get off the ground, Weintraub said.

“We’ve been knocking at the door. Let us be the guinea pigs,” he told legislators. “We mean business. We just need more funding.”

Others say solving crime in the region is tied to cracking down on repeat offenders.

Some law-enforcement officials voiced support for a proposal from Farry that would require mandatory minimums for convicted felons found with guns, with penalties starting off with 11 months in the slammer and increasing to five and 15 years for subsequent offenses.

Others blamed progressive policies they say handcuff police officers’  ability to prevent crime, such as Philly’s ban of minor traffic stops.

McVey said it’s one less tool for Philly cops. And it’s been an effective one for Buck County cops, who stop between 10,000 to 14,000 vehicles each year, often leading to discovery of other crimes, McVey said.

Gun seizures in the township are up 62 percent the last two years.

“Many of these guns are seized as a result of proactive measures which prevent shootings and tragedies from occurring,” McVey said.

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