Father of inmate: Staff could have prevented son’s murder
BELLEFONTE — A father who says his son was killed in SCI Benner Township by his cellmate is now suing the staff there, claiming they could have prevented his son’s murder.
Derric Harsh Jr., 23, was found unresponsive in his cell in February.
The Centre County Coroner’s Office ruled Harsh’s death a homicide in March and said that he died from manual strangulation.
Now, Harsh’s father is saying his son’s death could have been prevented.
The suit alleges that Harsh’s cellmate was serving two consecutive life terms for murder and correctional and mental health staff at SCI Benner knew he suffered from mental illness.
Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges that staff knew Harsh’s cellmate was “distressed” from losing single-cell status and had said he would have to kill someone to reclaim that single-cell status.
The lawsuit says that, despite this knowledge, correctional and mental staff failed to take steps to ensure the safety of other staff and inmates.
Harsh was serving eight to 16 years for rape out of Lancaster County and had been housed at SCI Benner since Feb. 2, 2017, officials said.