Prison Lockdown

Mick Stinelli / 90.5 WESA

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Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

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

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel says he doesn’t know how long the state prison system will remain on lockdown. The department stopped all visits and most mail from going into all state prisons starting Wednesday, after 29 employees were sickened in recent weeks by exposure to smuggled drugs.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

On Wednesday, Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections unexpectedly locked down the entire state prison system after a sudden rash of illnesses among employees, thought to be caused by accidental exposure to synthetic drugs.

The move may be unprecedented in the commonwealth—though it’s not the only state grappling with illnesses related to unknown substances.  

The lockdown came the same day 29 people at an Ohio prison were treated for accidental drug exposure, and the same week five inmates in Arkansas died of suspected overdoses.