Pa. prisons end lockdown, resume visits after dozens sickened
Toxicology tests confirmed the presence of synthetic cannabinoids in "multiple" employees and that inmate overdoses have been caused by those drugs and other illegal substances
By Associated Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania's state prisons resumed normal visits and all inmates were no longer confined to their cells Monday, 12 days after officials imposed temporary rules while they addressed a spate of illnesses linked to synthetic drugs.
The Corrections Department said toxicology tests confirmed the presence of synthetic cannabinoids in "multiple" employees and that inmate overdoses have been caused by those drugs and other illegal substances.
The agency says more than 50 of its employees and 33 inmates have reported feeling sick and were treated at hospitals over three months ending in August.
The prison system has changed how it handles incoming inmate mail, outsourcing most of it and revising how it opens legal mail in the presence of inmates.
It also has increased staff in visiting areas and made other changes related to inmate visitors.
"We are confident that these new and refined tools and protocols will help our employees to detect, monitor and continue efforts to keep drugs out of our facilities," Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said.
The department also is bolstering its ability to detect drones and expanding the use of scanners.
Employees have received training in the use of protective gloves and hazardous materials teams have been set up at all 25 prisons.
Wetzel said last week the new procedures to combat drug smuggling will cost the state about $15 million.