Man transferred from Allegheny County Jail intake dies at nearby hospital 

By Brittany Hailer

James Washington, 42, a man released from Allegheny County Jail custody, died Monday around 5 p.m. at UPMC Mercy Hospital. He was found unresponsive in the jail’s intake unit Sunday morning, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner. 

The Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism obtained emails in which Warden Orlando Harper describes a medical emergency of an incarcerated individual.

On Sunday evening, Harper notified the Jail Oversight Board that an individual had tested positive for opiates in intake that morning. While still in the jail’s intake department, the individual “experienced a medical emergency.” Four doses of Narcan were administered by jail staff and the man was transferred to the hospital, according to Harper. 

In his email to the JOB, Harper also wrote that the hospital notified the jail that the individual was in critical condition, and asked that the jail notify the man’s emergency contact. 

Harper wrote the JOB a second email an hour after Washington’s death on Monday. Washington had been released from custody: “As a result, the jail no longer has access to the individual’s medical treatment and will be unable to provide further updates,” Harper wrote.

County jail spokesperson Jesse Geleynse confirmed that the individual described in Harper’s notification email to the JOB was Washington.

In a press release published after this story was first reported, the county confirmed that Washington was released from custody Monday morning, hours before his death.

This is the second death of an incarcerated person in Pittsburgh this year. On April 17, William Spencer, 24, jumped from a building while in custody. Renewal Detention Center, the same address where he jumped, would not confirm his death. Spencer was in custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons when he died. 

Since April 2020, 18 men have died following their incarceration at the Allegheny County Jail. 

If you have any information about James Washington or William Spencer’s deaths please email Brittany Hailer at

The timeline of Allegheny County Jail deaths in 2022 are as follows: 

September: Anthony Talotta, 57, died at UPMC Mercy on Sept. 21 after he was transferred from the jail’s mental health unit and released from custody. Talotta died of hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office. His manner of death was ruled as natural. 

August: Ronald James Andrus, 78, died August 14 in the Allegheny County Jail of an irregular heart rhythm, according to the medical examiner. His manner of death was ruled as natural.  

“He had been in the hospital for the last 10 days but was released earlier today to return to the jail. He had been back at the facility on the medical unit for about an hour when a medical emergency was declared,” Harper wrote in an email to the Jail Oversight Board. Andrus was declared dead by jail medical staff shortly before 4:00 p.m. on August 14.

July: Victor Joseph Zilinek, 39, suffered a drug overdose resulting in his July 13 death, according to the medical examiner. His manner of death was ruled an accident. The combined toxic effects of fentanyl and methamphetamine contributed to his death, according to the medical examiner. 

April: Jerry Lee Ross Jr., 48, died at the Allegheny County Jail on April 29. Jail employees conducted CPR and Ross was declared dead by a medical provider at the jail, according to an email from jail spokesperson Jesse Geleynse. He died of cardiomegaly, or an enlarged heart, according to the medical examiner. His manner of death was ruled natural.

March: Gerald Thomas, 26, died March 6 at UPMC Mercy Hospital where he was taken after he suffered a medical emergency in the jail. Thomas died of a bilateral pulmonary embolism, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office. His manner of death was ruled natural. 

January: Paul Spisak, 77,  died in January in a hospital after the court released him from Allegheny County Jail custody following an incident which left him unresponsive in his cell on Jan. 22.  The medical examiner determined that his cause of death was blunt force trauma. The manner of death was ruled an accident.

More Allegheny County Jail Stories:

Thirteen men died after going to the Allegheny County Jail. Here are their stories

Her husband died after transfer to the hospital from the Allegheny County Jail. Theresa Harris questions why she wasn’t asked for permission on his surgery and DNR order

Lack of transparency and oversight leave officials, families and media with questions following Allegheny County Jail deaths

In most of the state autopsy reports for those who die in jail are public, but not in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties

Photo of Allegheny County Jail by Jake Dabkowski.

This story was updated to include the county’s confirmation that James Washington was the individual Orlando Harper described in his email to the Jail Oversight Board and the county’s confirmation of Washington’s release from custody.