State Corrections Secretary John Wetzel Announces New Prison Protocols

PA Internet News Service

New Prison Protocols Announced Amid Statewide Lockdown

Changes target visitation, mail to eradicate drugs from facilities

September 05, 2018 - 12:48 pm

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By Jennifer Bloodworth for NewsRadio 1020 KDKA

WAYNESBURG (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) — State Corrections Secretary John Wetzel announced new department protocols Wednesday, as all 25 state prisons remain under lockdown.

Every facility will be outfitted with body scanners and drone detection. Officials say visitation and drones are used to deliver contraband to inmates.

Staff will be doubled in all visit rooms effectively immediately. There will be a 90-day moratorium on photos and on vending. Wetzel says these items are used to pass contraband during visitation.

Inmates will be scanned upon commitment and after visitation.

Ion scanners will also be used to detect drugs on inmates and personnel.

 “If you’re caught bringing drugs in, you will never visit any [state] correctional facility in Pennsylvania ever again,” Wetzel said at a press conference announcing the changes. “And we will distribute your name to county facilities to let them know about you too.”

Inmates caught with or who test positive for drugs will lose visitation for six months on their first offense, a year for the second and indefinitely for a third violation.

Wetzel says every facility will be equipped with body scanners within the next 30 days.

Several modifications also focus on papers accessible to inmates, including mail, magazines, and books.

Officials say papers are soaked in liquid synthetic cannabanoids like K-2 and delivered to inmates. Officials believe K-2 is what made dozens of DOC employees sick last week, leading to the statewide lockdown.  

Inmates will no longer receive any original documents mailed to them.

Personal inmate mail will now be scanned and processed off-site prior to delivery six days a week.  

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.

The department is beginning the transition to e-books and electronic magazines coupled with a bolstered library system featuring centralized purchasing and an ordering process.

Wetzel says family and friends will now have to request and order books through the DOC, but the department will not add costs.

“The vast majority of our inmates in our system do not do drugs. Just like the vast majority of visitors don’t bring drugs in. The overwhelming majority of staff doesn’t bring drugs in,” Wetzel said. “But we have to prepare for that one.”

The PA DOC has also set up a Drug Hotline. Anyone with information on drugs in state correctional institutions can report it to 717-728-4743.

“This plan is not to reduce the amount of drugs; this plan is to eliminate drugs inside our prisons,” Wetzel said. “And while we may never attain that, we’re going to work our butts off to get there.”

Wetzel says some restrictions of the statewide lockdown were lifted for certain inmates over the weekend, and he plans to end the lockdown next week.

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