Allegheny County Jail on lockdown after 11 employees fall ill

By Amanda Klein | September 3, 2018

Since approximately 10 p.m. Sunday, an unknown substance has sickened nine corrections officers and two healthcare employees at the Allegheny County Jail causing it to be placed on lockdown.

A county spokeswoman said the workers were taken to a hospital after they were exposed to an unknown odor or substance.  All employees have since been released.

Officials have not determined what the substance is, but said in a statement, “it is being treated similarly to the issue at the state correctional institutions.”

After 23 staff members were sickened in August from unknown substances, all state correctional facilities were placed on lockdown on Aug. 29, while officials try and determine what the substance is and institute additional safety measures for staff.

Based on preliminary testing, substances found in state facilities include, fentanyl, amphetamines and synthetic cannabinoids.

Staff are currently interviewing inmates and gathering information into what may be causing this illness. The facility will also be undergoing searches. The Allegheny County Police are also assisting in the investigation.

Allegheny County Jail Warden Orlando L. Harper said Monday, that inmates use mail as well as newspapers and paperback books to obtain contraband. Therefore, all inmate mail is now copied and the inmates receive the copy. Also, all newspapers and books must be sent from the publisher.

“The issue of contraband is one that is faced by jails and prisons throughout the country, and not unique to Pennsylvania, Allegheny County, or the Allegheny County Jail. As jail officials, we are constantly on alert for ways that individuals get contraband into the facility, and to try to determine what that contraband may be. We consistently reinforce our policies and procedures with staff and, when appropriate, take steps to strengthen those policies and procedures,” said Harper.

In order to ensure the safety and security of staff and inmates the jail will remain locked down until further notice.

Amanda Klein can be contacted at

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