PA Prisons’ Unprecedented Security Crackdown: 5 Things You Need to Know
Lawyers claim the policies might be unconstitutional
A month after announcing a slate of security measures that have no precedent in a state prison system, Pennsylvania Corrections Secretary John Wetzel walked to the front of a South Philadelphia church and faced down a hostile audience. His message to the hundreds of seething community members, mostly friends and families of Pennsylvania's 47,000 prisoners: The initiatives, which collectively cost more than $15 million, were working.
"It's short-term pain for long-term gain," he said at the meeting, organized by the Pennsylvania Black Legislative Caucus. "We had a drug problem. We had a significant increase in drugs, and we had to get drugs out of the facilities."
The measures were necessary, he said, to protect staff from sicknesses related to exposure to synthetic cannabinoids, or K2. And, indeed, the DOC reports the number of such incidents
has declined drastically,
from more than 50 in August to eight in September. Along the way, the department says, the number of inmate overdoses related to K2 also fell, from 19 to five.
But the policies — including barring book donations and providing inmates photocopies of their mail rather than the originals — are unpopular with families and, lawyers argue, may even be unconstitutional.
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