Allegheny County Jail officials suspect drugs smuggled in on paper made employees sick |

Allegheny County Jail officials suspect drugs smuggled in on paper made employees sick

Allegheny County officials suspect that drugs smuggled into the jail sickened 11 employees over the Labor Day weekend, Warden Orlando Harper said Tuesday.

Contraband has been found and turned over to the county police for testing, Harper said.

Harper said the jail would remain on lockdown until he is certain the building is safe for inmates and visitors.

Inmates are being held in cells with no access to phones or attorneys in the pods, he said. They are receiving mail and can visit attorneys in rooms outside of the pods.

“Right now, allegedly, its synthetic drugs,” Harper said. “We don’t know for sure, but we’re going to look and find out exactly what it is.

“I can just say we suspect it to be some type of narcotic, but we’re not sure at this time.”

He could not provide a time frame for how long testing might take. Harper said the drug could be coming in on paper.

All of Pennsylvania’s 24 correctional institutions were locked down last week after more than a dozen employees at some of those locations became sick. Corrections officials believed the culprit was synthetic marijuana that may be coming into the facilities on paper. Inmates then eat the paper or smoke the paper.

County jail guards since last year have photocopied inmate mail and provided only the copies to inmates. Paperback books, magazines and newspapers must be sent to the jail directly from the publisher to avoid them being used as a vehicle for contraband, Harper said.

“Apparently, the inmates are receiving paper that could have liquid stained narcotics on the paper,” Harper said. “I’m just going to say that its suspected liquid narcotics on the paper.”

Nine jail guards and two members of the medical staff were sickened Sunday night in different areas of the jail. One guard was in the intake area and another was in the visiting area. Harper said they became sick after inhaling something. The employees, who reported elevated blood pressure and dizziness, were treated at a local hospital and released. All have returned to work.

Harper said he’s since had multiple communications with Pennsylvania Department of Corrections officials who are providing assistance.

“Our partners with the state have provided us a lot of educational documents so that we can educate our staff here,” he said. “We’ve also had telephone conference calls as to how we’re going to combat this issue. The state has been very instrumental in assisting us to combat this issue.”

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter @bobbauder.

Allegheny County Jail Warden Orlando Harper.
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.