Eighteen prison workers from three different correctional facilities in Pennsylvania were recently taken to the hospital for falling ill after contact with an unidentified toxic substance. Five incidents occurred over a two-week period earlier this month when workers came into close contact with prisoners’ belongings and through physical contact with inmates. The state is calling for improved security measures to protect prison staff.
Prison guards, nurses, and doctors experienced tingling sensations in their arms, fingers, and legs, as well as dizziness, increased heart rate, and headaches after coming into close contact with inmates’ belongings. Those affected encountered the substance during searches of prison cells, and through skin to skin contact during routine medical procedures.
The substance is being analyzed, but it is believed to be a synthetic product that is being smuggled to inmates inside the prison. Prison officials are trying to prevent further instances by carefully inspecting inmate mail and scanning visitors entering the prison. Decontamination stations have been set up in some areas, and protective clothing and face masks, gloves, and protective eyewear are being used to prevent exposure to the substance.
Prison administrators are taking further action to train prison staff on how to recognize and handle suspicious substances, and how to properly dispose of contaminated equipment and clothing. The use of body scanners is also being implemented in prisons across the state. Prison officials for the state have acknowledged an increase in drug trafficking throughout Pennsylvania prisons, particularly in the western portion of the state. Physical assaults of prison staff by inmates has risen in recent months as drug trafficking has increased.
A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections recently announced that they are increasing efforts to protect the guards, medical personnel, and staff working in the state’s prison system. New violence prevention and response training programs, intelligence briefings, and police personnel have been added to many of the state’s prisons. Officials are hopeful that their efforts to increase security through education, training, and personnel support will decrease incidents of violence on prison staff.
Specific training programs and security measures will include:
Attorneys at MacMain Leinhauser advise and counsel officials working to improve prison conditions. Call us today at 484-318-7106 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. Our West Chester, Pennsylvania office serves clients across the state.