State prisons in lock down after staff sickened by unknown substance

Written by Rachel McDevitt | Aug 29, 2018 2:28 PM

FILE: In this Tuesday, April 13, 2010 photo, a solitary corrections officer looks out from a tower at one corner of the state prison in Camp Hill, Pa. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is evaluating whether it needs to have officers constantly on tower duty, since security has been enhanced and only five of 27 state facilities even have towers due to changes in prison design. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(Harrisburg) -- The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is locking down all state prisons.

Corrections Secretary John Wetzel announced the immediate lockdown of all state correctional institutions because of reports of multiple staff members sickened by unknown substances over the past few weeks.

"The safety and security of our employees is my number one concern," Wetzel said. "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."

Starting Wednesday, and effective indefinitely, all visits are suspended, prison mailrooms are closed to non-legal mail, employees must use protective equipment such as gloves.

The department says situational awareness training will be held at all facilities.

Corrections officials say the commonwealth is not alone in dealing with this issue. More than 20 corrections officers and inmates reportedly experienced possible opioid overdose symptoms at a facility in Ohio Wednesday.

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