Congressman calls for reforms after five federal COs sickened

U.S. Rep Matt Cartwright called for reforms on how inmates receive mail


By Frank Wilkes Lesnefsky
The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

WAYNE COUNTY, Pa. — After five federal correctional officers needed medical treatment following exposure to an unknown drug at a Wayne County federal prison last week, U.S. Rep Matt Cartwright visited the prison Friday and called for reforms on how inmates receive mail.

Five officers were treated at Wayne Memorial Hospital on Wednesday night and Thursday morning when they became ill after coming in contact with the drugs while conducting cell searches at United States Penitentiary at Canaan.

All five were on duty in the same cellblock, and they became sick, dizzy and nauseous.

They were released throughout the day Thursday, with the last officer leaving the hospital late that afternoon, said Jeremy Dominick, president of the Wayne County prison union that represents more than 300 workers.

“All of them are cleared for full duty,” he said.

Officials are still working to determine what kind of drug caused the symptoms, Dominick said.

Cartwright, D-8, Moosic, spoke to all five officers, thanking them for their service while calling for a more modern, digitalized mail system to prevent inmates from receiving mail containing drugs. Dominick recommended the same.

Rather than allowing inmates to receive physical mail, workers would scan incoming letters and allow inmates to access digital copies, Cartwright said in a statement, explaining that the format is working at other locations.

“If we can close this known pathway to drug smuggling, we can protect correctional officers and inmates, and we can avoid dangerous incidents like these from happening again,” he said.

©2019 The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pa.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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