Prison changes costing $15M

New procedures put in place to fight drug smuggling after staff sickened

HARRISBURG (AP) — The head of Pennsylvania’s prison system said Thurs­day it is costing the state about $15 million to implement new procedures to combat drug smuggling believed to have caused dozens of staff to become sick in recent weeks.

Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said the 25 prisons should resume normal operations next week.

About 50 guards and other employees have re­ported symptoms since the start of August, which are thought to have been caused by exposure to a clear, odorless substance known as synthetic marijuana, or K-2.

Wetzel said attorney-client visits have resumed, and all visits are expected to be allowed starting Monday. The weeklong system-wide lockdown should be over early next week, as well.

The prisons are expanding use of body scanners and drone detection and adding staff to visiting rooms.

Wetzel said about 80 percent of the department’s workers have been trained on the use of protective equipment, and by the end of the day today all prisons should have established hazardous materials teams.

Under an emergency procurement process, the state will be sending inmate mail to be processed outside of prisons, but legal mail will be copied by staff in the presence of inmates.