– The Department of Corrections (DOC) today provided a
45-day progress update on new protocols and policies announced in September to
protect staff, visitors and inmates at Pennsylvania’s 25 state correctional
facilities after an unprecedented number of inmate and staff exposures to
were put in place for safety and to eradicate drugs from the prisons. And they
are working, according to data released today by the department.
“Working in a
prison is a dangerous job,” DOC Secretary John Wetzel said. “Add to that the
potential that an employee might be seriously sickened conducting a routine
inmate property search or opening mail or that an inmate might overdose or have
an adverse, violent reaction to a drug is something DOC cannot and will not
tolerate. Halfway into the full implementation of these protocols, they are
making a difference on all levels of risk to staff, inmates, and visitors.”
first month of the new policies (the most recent data available):
• Staff sent to the emergency room for drug
exposure dropped from 48 visits in August to 8 in September
• Drug finds dropped by 46 percent to the
lowest level in more than a year
• Positive drug tests from random inmate drug
testing dropped in half to the lowest level in more than a year
• Both inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-staff
• The number of inmate misconducts written for
drug-related activity were cut in half
data on these and other measures can be found on the DOC’s data dashboard, here.
announced these policies, we intended full implementation to take 90 days,
which implied further development of plans as we worked to interact with staff,
inmates and visitors to fine tune, analyze and develop fair, complete, and most
important, safe policies,” Wetzel said.
“One of the
most discussed policies is mail, especially books. We hear what inmates,
advocates and families are saying; we listened and are addressing those
important to reiterate that at no time did our new policies ban books, nor are
we charging inmates to read. Our new policies actually expand access for
inmates while ensuring safety for all. And we will continue to look for ways to
“The new book
donation policy, which we will formally announce in two weeks, will meet our
security standards and follow the same procedures that book donation
organizations currently use,” Wetzel said.
will work as follows: Inmates will sign up for genres of books, which is the
current policy of most donation organizations; the DOC will work with donation
organizations to locate the genres requested; the books will be shipped to a
centralized DOC location, pass through security and be distributed directly to
those inmates who made the requests.
“We will be
able to fulfill the mission of the donation organizations by providing free
books to inmates and we can reach inmates within our institutions who may not
have been aware that this opportunity existed, helping to expand access to free
books,” Wetzel said.
The new book
policy also includes a purchasing component that has already been implemented.
Inmates access a kiosk in each facility to request books through centralized
ordering. Inmates have requested nearly 4,000 publications – at low prices –
since the program started two weeks ago.
the number one book requested by inmates from the donation organizations is a
dictionary. The DOC is addressing this issue by providing free dictionaries to
every inmate who requests one.
dictionaries will be funded through the Inmate General Welfare Fund,” Wetzel
said. “This is non-taxpayer money, funded through vending machine sales, our
commissaries, and phone calls for the exclusive purpose of benefitting inmates.
We are pleased to make the most-requested book available to any inmate who
wants one at no cost to the inmate.”
Corrections also provided an update on progress with the development of new
policies on mail, body scanners, and visitation.
The DOC’s mail
contractor, Smart Communications (SmartCOM), began processing mail on September
10 and is receiving, on average 10,000 pieces of mail daily. The mail is
processed 24 hours a day, Monday through Saturday. SmartCOM has hired 52
employees and ordered six mail scanners for the Pennsylvania contract to speed
mail delivery to inmates. After the 90-day transition period, the DOC is on
track to have all mail in the hands of the inmate within 48 hours of SmartCOM
facilities now have new high-quality color copiers to print photos, greeting
cards and children’s drawings before given to inmates.
legal mail, the DOC continues to explore additional options for processing
legal mail, including the development of a secured email system exclusively for
legal mail. Currently, all mail (legal and general) originals are stored in a
locked container for a period of 45 days.
facilities without drone detection equipment are expected to have the equipment
installed the week of October 29, completing the plan for all facilities to
have the capability to detect drones.
of body scanners in all facilities is expected to begin within four weeks to
allow for required Department of Environmental Protection and site inspections
prior to installation. In the interim, staff training has started and will
continue after scanner installation.
Electronic Drug Detection Equipment (EDDE)
To aid in
safety and drug detection, in particular of cannabinoids, the DOC has trained
staff on the use of Electronic Drug Detection Equipment, or EDDE, also known as
ion scanners, which will be on site at all correctional facilities by early
Those who seek
to get drugs into prisons have become more creative and the new drugs, K2 or
synthetic cannabinoids, are odorless, colorless and more potent than seen
before, and make up 40 percent of drugs introduced into the state prison
system. The primary deliver system for these drugs is paper.
“The new EDDE
equipment will help in detecting more than 30 types of cannabinoids, while
keeping our staff and inmates safe from possible exposure to these dangerous
substances,” Wetzel said.
continues to work on a policy that allows for reinstituting visiting room
benefits such as vending machines. As the policy is finalized, facilities are
working to accommodate visitors who have requested medical exemptions regarding
Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association supports these policy
changes at the state correctional facilities because they protect our staff,
who are dedicated public servants and who deserve to come home safely each
day,” said Jason C. Bloom, President.
unprecedented number of staff and inmate exposures to dangerous substances and
subsequent 14-day lockdown, we announced these drug interdiction plans,
developed with the goal of making our prisons safe for inmates, visitors, and
staff,” Wetzel said. “We are pleased to announce progress, an expansion of our
book policy, and the data that indicates our staff, inmates, and visitors are
safer today than they were 45 days ago.”
MEDIA CONTACT: Amy Worden, 717-728-4026
# # #