Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has introduced new safety protocols and procedures to address problems with drugs and toxic substances entering prison facilities. The latest safety protocols are in response to the recent staff illnesses that forced a lockdown on August 29th at all state facilities.
The state's 25 prisons were placed on a lockdown Aug. 29, after several incidents left 58 corrections officers and other prison staffers feeling ill due to smuggled drugs and substances exposure. PA DOC has experienced an uptick in the number of drug incidents this year. DOC officials noted they had counted 2,034 drug incidents in the first six months of 2018, which involved 1,802 inmates.
This week Gov. Tom Wolf met with staff at State Correctional Institution Greene on Wednesday to discuss safety concerns and address the exposure that left employees ill at several state prisons. Immediately following the meeting, Gov. Tom Wolf and Corrections Secretary John Wetzel announced new protocols being put in place to protect staff, visitors, and inmates at all Pennsylvania state correctional facilities.
"This plan is not to reduce the amount of drugs," Wetzel said in a press conference held after a tour of State Correctional Institution Greene with Gov. Tom Wolf.
"This plan is to eliminate drugs within our prisons. ... If these steps are insufficient," he added, "we're going to take more steps until we get there."
The new protocols are already being phased in and should be completed at all state prisons within the next 90 to 100 days. New Protocols from Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf’s website:
- All mail currently in correctional facilities will be returned to the sender.
- All mail will be sent to a separate address where it will be scanned and processed six days per week. After scanned and processed, mail will be delivered to inmates.
- Legal Mail will be copied by Corrections staff wearing protective clothing in the presence of inmates. The copying process will be videotaped and tapes preserved and burned weekly to a disc and original documents placed in a secure bag and maintained for 15 business days.
- Multiple Pennsylvania Department of Corrections facilities are currently utilizing drone detection; those without drone detection will be receiving it.
- Procedures will reflect specific protocols for when a drone is detected, especially procedures for when a drone is present when inmates are at yard.
- Body scanners will be purchased centrally and distributed to all Correctional facilities as soon as possible.
- Each facility will receive two scanners: One for visitors and one for staff.
- Staff will be doubled in all visit rooms effectively immediately.
- There will be a 90-day moratorium on photos and on vending while the department develops more strict criteria for protocols on consequences of the introduction and possession of drugs by visitor and/or inmates.
- The department is beginning the transition to e-books coupled with a bolstered department library system featuring centralized purchasing and an ordering process.
- The same protocol applies to magazines.
- A resource account will be created where friends and family can make requests to purchase books to be delivered to inmates.
Drug Information Hotline: 717-728-4743
- The hotline is for callers to provide any information related to the introduction of drugs or possession of drugs in a state correctional institution by inmates, visitors or staff members.
- Callers may remain anonymous but if any wish to speak to an investigator, may leave a name and inmate number.
- Family members, staff and members of the general community are also encouraged to use this PA DOC Drug hotline.
Before the lockdown, PA DOC introduced new training and safety measures to limit the introduction of contraband and decrease assaults happening in the facilities. The latest safety protocols build on the measures announced in August to further prevent and eliminate drugs from entering prisons and increase safety for all staff, visitors, and inmates.