All state prisons in Pennsylvania are on lockdown after dozens of staff at a number of of the establishments fell critically unwell within the final month. Officials consider the jail staff might have been sickened after being uncovered to artificial marijuana, in accordance to media stories.
Corrections Secretary John Wetzel advised reporters that he’s not sure how lengthy the establishments will stay on lockdown.
“We’re really just trying to make sure everybody’s safe and calm everybody down until we come out of this,” Wetzel stated. “We don’t want to take a chance. We don’t want to put our staff at risk and, frankly, we don’t want to put our inmates at risk.”
Corrections officers introduced the lockdown of all 24 state prisons on Wednesday after staff at establishments in Greene, Fayette, and Mercer counties turned sick in 5 separate incidents. The staff who fell ailing exhibited signs together with shortness of breath, flushing, and lack of consciousness.
While on lockdown, inmates should stay of their cells 24 hours per day. No guests are allowed and mail service for all however authorized correspondence is halted. Wetzel stated in a press launch that the sicknesses have been being investigated.
“Our state prisons, especially those in the western part of the state, have experienced recent incidents in which employees have been sickened and we need to get to the bottom of this issue now,” Wetzel stated.
Are Synthetic Cannabinoids To Blame?
Prison officers consider that highly effective artificial cannabinoids are making their approach into the amenities. They suspect that colorless, liquid types of the drug are being utilized to the paper in letters and books being despatched to inmates.
“Some of the challenge around this is that one of the ways that it’s coming is it’s a clear, odorless liquid that’s put on paper, so it’s kind of undetectable,” Wetzel stated. “It’s just a difficult construct.”
Once contained in the establishment, prisoners eat the medicine by consuming or smoking the handled paper.
New Safety Protocols Coming
The secretary stated that new worker procedures have been being established on the correctional amenities. Workers will now be required to use security gear together with gloves and different protecting gear. All staff will bear coaching in harmful substances and a hazardous supplies response group can be assigned to every establishment earlier than the statewide lockdown is absolutely lifted. Wetzel added that hazmat groups might be in place by Friday, at which era the lockdown could possibly be modified.
“Certainly visits and mail will be the last things that come back online,” he stated. “We just can’t have a situation where we think there’s an issue and we’re sending staff in there and putting them at risk.”
Wetzel stated that new security procedures will probably be put in place on the prisons, which can embrace staff scanning each piece of mail arriving on the amenities.
“We have to learn how to act like a surgeon in an operating room – and that’s not just gloving up,” he stated. “We have to constantly remind ourselves that anything we touch could possibly be contaminated.”