Pennsylvania orders immediate lockdown of all state prisons

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) - Pennsylvania has locked down all state prisons because several corrections officers have been sickened by unknown substances in the past few weeks.

Corrections Secretary John Wetzel announced the immediate lockdown Wednesday.

Wetzel said his department is taking other steps. All visits are suspended, and all department mailrooms are closed to non-legal mail until further notice.

The use of personal protective equipment, especially gloves, is mandatory for all employees. Training will be held immediately in all prisons.

Prison staff has been told to use extra caution with parole violators and new inmates.

Wetzel didn't say how long the lockdown will last.

“The safety and security of our employees is my number one concern,” Wetzel said in a statement. “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.”

Two officers at the State Correctional Institution in Camp Hill were treated and released from a hospital after they became sickened last week. One of the officers reported he felt sick and threw up after brushing a glove off a table in the inmate exercise yard. 

Four corrections officers were hospitalized Aug. 13 after they were exposed to an unknown substance while searching an inmate's property at the State Correctional Institution in Greene County 

The previous week, six staff members at the State Correctional Institution at Mercer were sickened by an unknown substance.

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