Bucks County officials are “taking some precautions” after Pennsylvania put all state-run correctional institutions on lockdown Wednesday due to staff member illnesses caused by “unknown substances.”
The Bucks County Correctional Facility in Doylestown has reported no illnesses related to the statewide incidents, but officers and staff have been taking steps to safeguard the system that houses hundreds of inmates and employs more than 300 people, according to country spokesperson Juliet Kelchner.
On Wednesday, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel made the announcement that all state correctional institutions would go into “immediate lockdown” due to reports of multiple staff members sickened over the past few weeks.
Officials said all Pennsylvania Department of Corrections mailrooms have been closed to non-legal mail, staff is required to use personal protective equipment, situational awareness training will be held immediately at all facilities, and visits to state prisons have been suspended.
“The safety and security of our employees is my number one concern,” Wetzel said. “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.”
While the Bucks County Correctional Facility remains under normal operations and accepting mail and visitors, officers and staff have been using personal protective equipment and taking extra precautions with inmate and parole violators, Kelchner explained.
Earlier this month, officials announced efforts to beef up security after 18 Pennsylvania Department of Corrections staffers in the western portion of the state were sickened by exposure to an unknown substance.
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections said at the time that attempts to smuggle in drugs through the mail have increased significantly at their facilities in recent years. Officials said that illegal substances are often hidden under stamps, in pictures, or saturated into papers. Newer methods used to smuggle drugs in have made detection harder and more time-consuming for corrections officers.