Pennsylvania Prisons on Lockdown after Staffers Exposed to Suspected Drugs

Pennsylvania Prisons on Lockdown after Staffers Exposed to Suspected Drugs

Since Aug. 6, 29 employees throughout the Pennsylvania prison system have fallen ill in 13 separate incidents. Some inmates have also become ill. According to Corrections spokeswoman McNaughton, only synthetic cannabinoid (also known as K2 or spice) has been connected to the illnesses.

Pennsylvania ordered an immediate statewide lockdown of its prison system Wednesday after multiple staff members fell ill from suspected exposure to synthetic drugs in the past few weeks. State Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said the lockdown was called for to ensure the “safety and security of our employees,” and that staff would receive new training.

Since Aug. 6, 29 employees throughout the Pennsylvania prison system have fallen ill in 13 separate incidents. Some inmates have also become ill. According to Corrections spokeswoman McNaughton, only synthetic cannabinoid (also known as K2 or spice) has been connected to the illnesses.

Symptoms of the illnesses include dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, and skin tingling. According to Wetzel, letters or pages of books are being dipped in synthetic cannabinoid and sent to correctional facilities via the mail.

All Department of Corrections state prisons are locked down and all visits are suspended for the length of the lockdown. All DOC mailrooms are closed to non-legal mail until further notice.

All employees are now required to wear personal protective equipment, particularly gloves, and employees will be trained on situational awareness. In addition, staff are advised to use caution when parole violators and new people are received into their prison system.

Wetzel said hazardous materials teams would be added and in place at every prison by Sept. 7.

“We will do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of our staff,” Wetzel said. “The state’s Opioid Command Center is giving complete support to this action. And Corrections thanks all state agencies for their support, especially the Pennsylvania Department of Health, for providing additional gloves and personal protective equipment.” 

Wetzel said he did not know then the lockdown would be lifted.

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