[Ed note: A reminder that our mission is not to find alternative uses for the building, but I am posting this here so the public is aware.]
Every day the Allegheny County Jail becomes a temporary home for drunk drivers and others driven to crime by drugs or alcohol.
Many are non-violent, according to county officials who wonder if jail is the right place for them.
Now that UPMC has announced the closing of Braddock Hospital, some in the county see an opportunity.
The county court administration confirms that it has begun preliminary discussions to use UPMC Braddock as an alternative sentencing facility for drunk drivers and other non-violent offenders.
People arrested with drug and alcohol problems could receive treatment there instead of incarceration.
UPMC Braddock has long housed a drug and alcohol treatment center whose future is uncertain when the hospital stops operations this year.
But some in the county hope to offer the same types of treatment to non-violent offenders with drug or alcohol addictions.
County Controller Mark Patrick Flaherty argues the county could realize a large cost savings, saying treatment will help prevent offenders from reoffending and free up cells for more violent criminals.
But in economically-depressed Braddock, which is still reeling from news of the hospital closing, the idea isn't going over well.
"It's bad enough that we had to lose the hospital through the greed and actions of UPMC," Mayor John Fetterman, D-Braddock, said. "I'd hate to see it turn into another center that kind of reinforces the notion held by some people that it's like, 'Well, let's just put it in Braddock.'"
Fetterman says if the building can't stay a hospital, he has higher aspirations for it such as a charter school or training facility.
"We want to hold out for something that can inspire or educate the community – not serve as basically a holding pen for people," he said.