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Allegheny County Police Investigate How Jail Employees Got Sick Over The Weekend

Kathleen J. Davis
90.5 WESA
The Allegheny County Jail on Tuesday, September 4, 2018.

The Allegheny County Jail is still determining how 11 employees got sick over the weekend, prompting a facility-wide lockdown.

Between Sunday night and early Monday, jail staff on three separate floors of the facility reported symptoms such as elevated blood pressure and dizziness. Jail warden Orlando Harper says police are investigating what exactly the substance is and how it got into the jail.

"If such efforts result in findings, or if charges are appropriate, the Allegheny County Police will take action," Harper said.

Harper said he believes the source is a narcotic sprayed on paper. Suspected papers have been turned over to the County Police for testing.

Twenty-nine prison employees across the state were sickened in August by a substance now identified as K2, a synthetic drug. In these cases, the odorless liquid was believed to have entered the jails on papers and books in the mail.

This prompted the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to release new guidelines on protective gear employees should wear while handling mail and doing searches.

Harper says he's unsure why inmates have not reported being sickened by the substance. As part of the lockdown, all inmates are required to be in their cells and are not permitted to make phone calls. Photocopied versions of their mail are allowed.

"When we believe that it's safe for the inmates and everyone entering our facility, we will release the lockdown," Harper said.