Pgh advocates gather 65K signatures for no-knock warrant ban and solitary confinement limit ballot initiatives

Allegheny County Jail (Image via Pittsburgh City Paper)

By Colleen Hammond

PITTSBURGH — The push for two new criminal justice reforms in Allegheny County is on the horizon. And thanks to The Alliance for Police Accountability, they could be on the ballot in May.

The Alliance for Police Accountability, a grassroots criminal justice reform organization, is set to file more than 65,000 signatures in support of the two ballot initiatives: one to limit solitary confinement in the Allegheny County Jail, and the other to prohibit the use of no-knock warrants by the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.

“These two initiatives are critical to the public health and safety of the residents of Allegheny County,” says APA president Brandi Fisher. “The community has the power to make the decisions that impact their lives, and this initiative is one way for that to manifest.”

lawsuit filed in September 2020 by Allegheny County Jail inmates alleged that solitary confinement was being used as a punishment against inmates seeking mental health care, and academic research has shown solitary confinement can actually increase recidivism rates, as well as unemployment rates.

Allegheny County code states that ballot initiatives must gather signatures equal to or greater than the total of 5% of county voters who cast ballots for governor in the most recent gubernatorial contest. That would mean at least 27,088 valid signatures must be counted and verified to get a solitary confinement limit on the Allegheny County ballot.

For the city of Pittsburgh ballot initiatives, there must be signatures totaling at least 10% of voters within the city who cast ballots for governor in the most recent gubernatorial contest. That would mean at least 12,428 valid signatures must be counted and verified to get a no-knock warrant ban on the city ballot.

The advocates’ total signatures for each initiative are both well over the city and county requirements. After the county formally reviews the submitted signatures and the proposed legislation, both issues should appear as charter amendment and ordinance, respectively, on the May 18 primary election ballot.

Pittsburgh City Council has also shown support for a no-knock warrant ban, and has introduced legislation to ban Pittsburgh Police officers from doing that practice.

Colleen Wallace is a reporter for Pittsburgh City Paper, where this story first appeared.