Synthetic pot sickened many Pa. prison staff

SOMERSET (AP) — Officials say the substance that sickened more than two dozen Pennsylvania state prison employees in the past month and led to a statewide lockdown was synthetic marijuana.

Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said he believe the liquefied drug, also known as K2, is coming into facilities soaked into paper via letters or books. Inmates then eat or smoke it.

The findings were revealed just hours before at least five more prison workers were taken to hospitals after falling ill.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Susan McNaughton says three workers at SCI Somerset reported feeling sick Thursday night after catching inmates smoking something. Two others later got sick.

SCI Muncy announced Thursday that it postponed the opening ceremony for the Department of Correction’s first residential female Veteran’s Service Unit because of the statewide lockdown, but the institution has not had an incident on its grounds.

“Muncy has not had any employee exposure incidents,” McNaughton said.

Muncy, along with all of the state’s prisons, will be locked down until further notice which includes closures of all of the prisons mailrooms and visits. The Department of Corrections also wrote in a press release that there will be situational awareness training in all of its institutions and there will be mandatory use of personal protective equipment for all employees.

McNaughton said an announcement will be made after the lockdown is lifted as to when SCI Muncy will open the new Veteran’s Service Unit.

Sun-Gazette reporter Ioannis Pashakis contributed to this article.