Mar. 1—Mail safety protocols in the state's prisons are being updated after two guards at a Northeastern Pennsylvania facility were hospitalized.
Officials said the pair were exposed to K2, or synthetic marijuana, that was sent in correspondence supposedly from the courts.
Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said the new protocols for court entities went into effect Monday. Any legal mail sent from the courts to Pennsylvania state prison inmates must contain a control number that senders can obtain in advance through the department. Wetzel described the measure as a "commonsense precaution" the ensure the safety of inmates and staff members.
"While we face the challenge of mitigating covid-19 in our prison system, we must still contend with drugs, substance use disorder and the security threats caused by contraband," Wetzel said in a statement.
Synthetic marijuana is created in a laboratory and can cause elevated heart rate, seizures and hallucinations, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Issues with it in prisons and county jails prompted lock downs and changes to mail policies to prevent it being sent to inmates from the outside.
The control number for mail from courts is the latest change in the policy, which requires all non-legal mail to be sent to a post office box in Florida where a vendor opens, scans and forwards the correspondence by email. Mail handlers at the state prison facilities print the correspondence for inmates.
Attorneys have used the control number process for the past year, but the change makes it effective for court officials, as well. Wetzel said two guards at SCI Dallas near Wilkes-Barre became ill after being exposed to K2 from mail that purportedly came from the courts.
Control numbers can be obtained at privilegedmails.cor.pa.gov.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, email@example.com or via Twitter .