Pennsylvania prisons adopt new procedures to curb contraband

By Steve Pope | September 5, 2018

After a meeting Wednesday between Governor Tom Wolf  and Department of Corrections staff at SCI-Greene, major changes were announced in mail handling, visitation and drone detection policies at the state’s correctional facilities.

Corrections Secretary John Wetzel detailed the new policies and procedures, which are already being implemented. Wetzel said he hopes the process will be completed within the next 90 to 100 days.

All non-legal mail will be processed at a Florida facility where the mail will be copied and sent to inmates. Legal mail will still be received at the facility, but copied in the inmate’s presence and the copy given to the inmate.

All facilities will eventually receive drone detection technology.  Specific protocols for when a drone is detected, especially procedures for when a drone is present when inmates are in a recreation yard will be developed and implemented.

Each facility will receive two body scanners, one each for visitors and staff.  Visiting room staff will be doubled and there is a temporary ban on purchasing items from vending machines.

The state will be transitioning to e-books, and the library system will engage in central purchasing for books and magazines.

“Pennsylvania’s corrections officers put themselves in harm’s way to make our commonwealth safer, and it is up to us to provide them protection from harm,” Gov. Wolf said. “I met with several of the corrections officers here at SCI Greene today and I want to assure them that their concerns are valid and were heard.”

All facilities have been on lockdown since Aug. 29. Since May 31, 57 staff members have been sickened from what officials believe is a form of synthetic marijuana, that is clear and odorless and can be concealed on papers, or in books or on pictures.

On Saturday inmates at some of the facilities were allowed to spend time out of their cells, to take showers and exercise, in what’s been described as “modified” time outside their cells.

Steve Pope can be contacted at



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