The Department of Corrections hopes to end the lockdown of state prisons by next week, according to a DOC spokeswoman.
The state’s 25 prisons — including Rockview and Benner state prisons — have been on lockdown since Aug. 29 because about 50 staff members reported feeling sick or ill. The Associated Press reported the substance causing the illnesses was synthetic marijuana.
Two Rockview state prison employees were treated by medical staff one day before the lockdown. The two were released from a hospital after toxicology and urinalysis tests were inconclusive.
Spokeswoman Amy Worden said “inconclusive” is likely all the DOC will know about their illnesses because only one employee, who works at Greene state prison, tested positive for exposure to synthetic marijuana.
Worden said inmates are now getting more out-of-cell time during the lockdown and access to showers, phones and email kiosks began on Saturday.
Inmates are receiving food and medications in their cells and are allowed outside for additional activities and work assignments at the discretion of the prison’s superintendent, according to Worden.
Governor Tom Wolf and DOC Secretary John Wetzel announced new policies on mail handling, visits and more on Wednesday.
Inmate mail will be processed outside of the prisons, except legal mail, which will be copied by staff with the inmates present. The plan also calls for expanded detection of drones and use of body scanners.
Visiting room staff will be doubled. Photos and vending machines will not be allowed for 90 days. A hotline for tips about drug smuggling or possession by inmates, staff or visitors was also organized.
The changes are scheduled to be imposed in the next three months.
“We are focusing on doing the next right thing for our staff, the inmates, the system and the commonwealth,” Wetzel said. “With the announcement of these plans to eradicate drugs in the Corrections system, we are demonstrating our all-hands-on-deck approach to safety in our prisons.”