Life After the Lockdown: An Inside Look at the Albion State Prison
Life after the lockdown: Erie News Now gets an exclusive look inside SCI Albion, following a nearly two-week-long lockdown.
A recent spate of staff and inmate exposure to unknown substances, has forced the state to change its protocols, inside all state prisons.
And on Friday, we got a look inside SCI Albion to see what's happening, as those protocols start to take shape.
They stem from a huge Hazmat response at the prison back on August 29th, turned out cosmetics mixed with other chemicals may have caused at least five employees to get sick.
But at prisons across the state, inmates and staff were getting sick from exposure to synthetic marijuana or Fentanyl.
Sometimes lab tests aren't clear what the substances are, but what is clear, inmates are figuring out ways to sneak drugs into the state prisons.
So the state has come up with new protocols, “Our primary mission is the safety of the staff and inmates, it's impossible to ensure staff safety with the constant introduction of drugs into a correctional environment,” said Paul Ennis, Deputy Superintendent at SCI Albion.
The mail room and how they process incoming mail is the biggest change, with mail now going to a facility in Florida, where they photocopy it, and electronically send it to SCI Albion.
Augustus Floyd, Intelligence Lieutenant at SCI Albion, explains how inmates use mail to sneak synthetic K-2 into the prison, “It’s a liquid and what they would do is mask it on pieces of paper on incoming mail, and it was very hard to detect.”
“The primary method used to introduce drugs into the facility is the mail. So having that processed off site and having a secure process to stop that flow of drugs into the institution is absolutely essential,” said Ennis.
Ennis says the new protocol will not have a significant impact on when inmates receive their incoming mail, it should only detail by a day.
Also, many Pennsylvania state prisons are currently using drone detection devices. There have been reports across the country of people using drones to fly over prison yards, and drop contraband to inmates. So as a part of the new policies, all state prisons will be equipped with the technology.
SCI Albion will receive the drone technology soon, “It's been a concern in other states so we're just trying to be proactive because as we close those other avenues, other ones are going to open,” said Floyd.
And while the SCI Albion library will remain, the department is beginning a transition to e-books for inmates to read on their tablets.
Ennis says these moves are not made to punish, but to ensure everybody's safety inside these prison walls, “They're good changes for the department they're absolutely essential… Each piece by itself isn't enough to address this issue, but put together we're really hopeful that it ill stem the tide,” said Ennis.
The prison is also getting state-of-the-art body scanners, and staff is doubled in all the visitation rooms. The Department of Corrections has also established a Drug Information Hotline. It's so callers can provide any information related to the introduction of drugs, or possession of drugs in a state correctional institution by inmates, visitors or staff members. Callers may remain anonymous. That number is 717-728-4743.
To learn more about the changes check out the DOC's website.