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Prison reviews inmate's death

Published April 10. 2014 05:00PM

Nine days after a coroner's inquest jury determined that negligence contributed to a Schuylkill County prison inmate's drug overdose death in 2013, county officials have yet to see a transcript, but do not foresee any major changes in policy or procedure.

But they intend to scrutinize the rules.

"From everything we've seen, everything was followed," said Commissioner George F. Halcovage Jr. following a special meeting of the county Prison Board Wednesday. "We're working as a team to make things even better."

"We're always striving to improve," said Warden Eugene Berdanier. "We'll consider everything that's necessary."

Halcovage, chairman of the prison board, described 21-year-old Matthew Koncsler's death on March 31, 2013, as a tragedy.

After listening to six hours of testimony on March 31 that included medical experts, a former cellmate, and prison staff, the jury determined that Koncsler died of an accidental overdose to which negligence was a contributing factor.

Immediately after the inquest, District Attorney Christine Holman and coroner David J. Moylan said they would examine why inmates were not better supervised, and look at changing the way intake is conducted.

Currently body cavity searches are not routinely performed when inmates are admitted to the jail. One correctional officer testified that inmates are taken to a local emergency room for that.

Koncsler had been jailed five days earlier when he died in the early morning hours. According to medical experts, he had ingested heroin within an hour of his death, and had died of mixed drug toxicity. His cellmate, James Landron Jr., testified that he had seen Koncsler snorting crushed pills.

Security video footage showed inmates passing something hand-to-hand while sitting at tables in front of the "cage" where medications are dispensed.

Koncsler told medical intake staff at the prison that he was a heavy drug and alcohol user, and was started on drugs aimed at weaning him from the opiates he used.

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