All state prisons locked down after employees sickened by substance

September 23, 2018

All state prisons are under lockdown after several staff members recently became sickened by unknown substances, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections announced Wednesday.

Prison mailrooms also are closed to non-legal mail and visits with prisoners are prohibited until the lockdown is lifted, Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said.

There have been at least five incidents this month of prison staff members at facilities in Greene, Fayette and Mercer counties becoming ill after contact with a substance, officials have reported.

“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 said in a news release.

Corrections officials instituted several new protocols after those reports last week including enhanced training. All employees now must wear personal protective equipment, including gloves. Employees will undergo training immediately for situational awareness, the release stated.

The department has 24 prisons across the state, including several in the region in Greene, Mercer, Fayette, Indiana and Somerset counties. State prisons in Pittsburgh and Westmoreland County have closed in recent years.

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