What’s going on at Pa. state prisons? Rockview reports 2 employee illnesses

Aerial photograph of the Rockview state prison grounds Jan. 12, 2006.
Aerial photograph of the Rockview state prison grounds Jan. 12, 2006. Centre Daily Times, file

A Rockview state prison employee who was processing inmate request slips was transported to a hospital via ambulance after she began to feel ill on Tuesday, the state Department of Corrections said in a release.

A second employee was also treated by the prison’s medical staff after she began to feel lightheaded while sorting mail.

The two unidentified employees were working out of the same building, which has since been evacuated and sealed off. The prison was already on lockdown for a maintenance project and for the search of one housing unit, according to the release.

As of about 5 p.m., both employees had been discharged from the hospital, and toxicology and urinalysis tests were inconclusive, the DCO said.

Less than a mile away, Benner state prison security staff discovered 82.47 grams of K2 — or synthetic marijuana — in a non-contact visiting booth at the facility on Monday. An investigation is underway, according to a second DOC press release.

A dedication and tour was held at State Correctional Institution at Benner Township (SCI Benner) Monday, April 1, 2013. The prison cost nearly $200 million to construct and is 46 acres inside the perimeter’s fence. Centre Daily Times, file

The two incidents are not the only ones that have been reported at area prisons recently.

Houtzdale state prison security staff said an inmate swallowed an item he received from a female visitor on Sunday. The visitor later admitted to having drugs in her locker in the prison lobby, according to another press release.

On Thursday, a Houtzdale state prison employee was suspended after unauthorized items were found in his vehicle.

These local instances come at at time when safety and security measures have been ramped up in Pennsylvania prisons after 18 staff members at three institutions in western Pennsylvania prisons were sickened by exposure to an unknown substance earlier this month.

Additional instances were reported this past weekend.

At SCI Smithfield on Sunday, a corrections officer picked up what appeared to be a white, orange and blue paper that an inmate dropped to the floor. About 20 minutes later, the officer reported a headache and later became disoriented and confused and was transported to J.C. Blair Hospital, according to a DOC release.

At Camp Hill state prison this past weekend, a female visitor was stopped from smuggling about 32 grams of drugs into the prison.

WJAC reported that also over the weekend, an SCI Camp Hill officer vomited, and felt ill and another officer felt queasy after at least one of them touched a glove that was sitting on the ground in an excessive area.

An officer at SCI Fayette also had to be treated with the overdose-reversing drug Narcan, WJAC reported, after experiencing a flushed face and elevated heart rate, and another went to the hospital temporarily after experiencing high blood pressure and bumps on his hairline.

All officers were treated and quickly released, according to WJAC.

Gov. Tom Wolf and the Department of Corrections announced Aug. 21 they were taking “aggressive measures” to address new threats to staff and inmates.

“The safety and security of staff and inmates is paramount to the Department of Corrections,” Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said on Aug. 21. “Whether the threat is drugs or staff assaults, the agency is working vigorously to combat these threats on many fronts.”

In a release, the DOC said it is compiling a daily log of drug-related incidents that will be publicly available at www.cor.pa.gov starting Sept. 4.