[Pnews] Pennsylvania's New Draconian Control Unit Restrictions Deployed System Wide - Mail and Reading Controls for All Prisoners

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Sep 10 14:51:48 EDT 2018

  _/Several Articles Follow/_

  Lockdown of entire system lifted, but...

  Statements from Abolitionist Law Center, Sep 6


The PADOC “Lockdown” and the newly unveiled policies represent a threat 
to the rights, dignity, and health of our incarcerated clients, friends, 
and family. The problems occurring during the last week will be 
compounded and added to by these measures that will further restrict and 
chill communication between incarcerated people and those outside the walls.

It is becoming clear that there will need to be an organized challenge, 
or series of challenges, using a variety of advocacy strategies, 
including potential litigation. Please feel free to share this widely.

Toward that end we are asking for any reports of the following to be 
emailed to ckeys at alcenter.org <mailto:ckeys at alcenter.org> at the 
Abolitionist Law Center:

• Obstruction or interference in attorney-client communications, including:

o restrictions or prohibitions on visits
o restrictions or prohibitions on regular legal call opportunities
o failure to send outgoing legal mail, or significant delay in sending 
it out.
o failure to process incoming legal mail, or significant delay in 
getting mail.
o opening legal mail outside the presence of the recipient
o any copying of legal mail whatsoever

• Any negative legal consequences faced by incarcerated people due to 
their inability to communicate with legal counsel or the courts – missed 
deadlines, inadequate preparation for court proceedings, etc.

• Instances where the DOC refused to process non-legal mail, including 
where it was returned for no reason other than the DOC’s arbitrary 
statewide “lockdown”.

• Any serious problems caused by not receiving non-legal mail sent from 
family, friends, or other contacts, including and especially problems 
caused by not receiving time-sensitive information.

• Denial of publications such as magazines, newspapers, or books due to 
the “lockdown” or new policies.

• Imposition of disciplinary measures such as the issuance of a 
misconduct or having privileges restricted based on mere suspicion of 
drug use, or an allegation that mail intended for but not received by an 
incarcerated person contained a prohibited substance. Please include 
whether any evidence was obtained, tested (by the DOC or third party 
vendor), and whether there was any due process afforded through a hearing.

• False positives by ion scanners resulting in visitation restrictions 
or prohibitions.

• Instances of incarcerated people being deprived medical care during 
the lockdown, including regular appointments for chronic conditions, 
medications, mental health care, outside hospital appointments, 
emergency care, or specialist care.

• Instances of incarcerated people with physical or mental disabilities 
being deprived accommodations for those disabilities during the lockdown.

With solidarity and in it for the long haul,

The Abolitionist Law Center

  Cancel the new punitive PADOC policies, respect the rights of
  prisoners and their families

*Sign this petition!

Amistad Law Project <https://www.change.org/o/amistad_law_project> 
started this petition to Governor Tom Wolf

We are families and friends of incarcerated loved ones, professionals 
who work closely with people in PA prisons and concerned citizens who 
care about human rights. On September 5th Department of Corrections 
Secretary Wetzel and Governor Wolf announced new punitive protocols that 
will further punish, restrict and control people incarcerated in PA 
prisons. Governor Wolf and the Department of Corrections want to censor 
and restrict books, increase surveillance of prisoners mail, violate 
attorney-client privilege and institute cruel, restrictive visiting room 
policies which violate the American Disabilities Act. Join us in 
demanding that Governor Wolf and the PA Department of Corrections cancel 
these policies immediately and respect the rights of incarcerated 
people, their families and the people who work with them.

We demand that we be able to order our incarcerated loved ones, friends 
and clients books from (formerly) approved vendors and that they be able 
to hold them in their hands. The Pennsylvania DOC's move to E-books and 
a central marketplace that they control is censorship and a monopoly and 
we fully reject it.

We demand that our loved ones be able to touch letters that our hands 
touch too. We reject that our mail should be sent to a private company 
in Florida, Smart Communication, at taxpayer expense where it will be 
copied, the originals destroyed and the copies sent on. Furthermore 
during this process our mail will be scanned into a searchable database 
to increase already pervasive mailroom surveillance on our 
communication. If mailroom staff needs to be increased to search for 
contraband the DOC should do just that. The contract with prison 
profiteer Smart Communications should be immediately cancelled.

We demand that legal mail not be photocopied. In another protocol 
confidential legal mail will be opened and photocopied and the 
photocopies will be passed on to the incarcerated person. This is 
violation of attorney-client privilege and it will expose legal mail to 
be read in part if not in whole. It cannot stand.

We demand that vending machines and photos be restored on visits 
immediately. A new protocol states that vending machines and photos will 
be restricted for 90 days at which point new policies around these 
activities will be unveiled. This is unacceptable. People travel far to 
visit with their incarcerated family members and they deserve some basic 
decency. They ought to be able to share food and memorialize their time 
together through taking photos. Furthermore there are many people who 
are diabetic or have other conditions and cannot spend an 8 hour visit 
without eating anything. Not only is the the restriction on vending 
machines cruel it is also a violation of the Americans with Disabilities 
Act. We demand that official visitors should not have to wear plastic 
gloves on visits. A new policy requires that lawyers, paralegals, 
official visitors from the prison society and others be required to wear 
plastic gloves on visits. Our people in prison are not contaminated or 
diseased or otherwise toxic and they should not be treated like 
quarantined and subhuman specimens. It's notable that they make only 
professionals wear gloves. They know very well that this policy serves 
no public health purpose and it is clearly meant to denigrate prisoners 
and their families.

We demand respect. For too long elected officials have believed they can 
increase their political capital and their career prospects by punishing 
us, our incarcerated family members and our clients. Enough is enough. 
We pledge that we will never stop fighting until we are heard.

  Pa. prisons spend $15M after guards were sickened by K2. But what if
  it was just in their heads?

by Samantha Melamed 
<http://www.philly.com/archive/samantha_melamed/>-September 7, 2018

When Pennsylvania's prisons come off a statewide lockdown begun Aug. 29, 
inmates will be greeted by a number of radically tightened security 
measures: high-tech body-scanners for visitors, drone-detection 
equipment, and the digital delivery of all mail, which will be scanned 
and forwarded via a Florida-based contractor. In total, they will cost 
taxpayers $15 million.

The improvements come after the Department of Corrections reported 57 
staff were sickened in 28 incidents at prisons in central and Western 
Pennsylvania. Corrections Secretary John Wetzel announced the lockdown 
after linking the illnesses with exposure to synthetic cannabinoids — 
the drugs have, by official and inmate accounts, flooded prisons across 
the state in recent years — but also cited concern over a reported mass 
exposure to fentanyl at an Ohio prison the very same day the lockdown 
was announced.

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"Pennsylvania's corrections officers put themselves in harm's way to 
make our commonwealth safer, and it is up to us to provide them 
protection from harm," Gov. Wolf told reporters. "I want to assure them 
that their concerns are valid."

But, what if their concerns are actually misplaced?

That's a question raised by toxicologists, who say one likely diagnosis 
for the staff illnesses may be "mass psychogenic illness" — that is, a 
sort of contagious hysteria fueled by fears of dangerous exposure.

"There is some great concern that it's psychogenic," said Jeanmarie 
Perrone, director of medical toxicology at the University of 
Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine.

"Mass psychogenic illness happens all the time. We see it all the time 
with law enforcement," Perrone said. "Police pull someone over and find 
an unknown substance. Suddenly their heart's racing, they're nauseated 
and sweaty. They say, 'I'm sick. I'm gonna pass out.' That is your 
normal physiological response to potential danger."

Although seven prison staff were administered naloxone, the drug used to 
reverse opioid overdoses, experts said that was probably unnecessary. 
Unlike the guards — who reported symptoms including elevated heart rate 
and blood pressure, light-headedness, dizziness, and headaches — an 
overdose victim would be unresponsive, Perrone said. "If they are 
speaking, they don't need naloxone."

The American College of Medical Toxicology released a position paper 
on fentanyl last year noting that the risk of exposure for emergency 
responders is "extremely low." They noted that it cannot be absorbed 
through the skin in a powder form, and it's unlikely, if it were 
aerosolized, that it would be concentrated enough to sicken responders.

Synthetic cannabinoids — laboratory-made compounds also known as K2 or 
Spice —  are more complicated, because they can be made up of any number 
of compounds, and their makeup can vary wildly from one batch to the 
next. Some versions even include rat poison. Prison officials say K2 is 
frequently soaked in paper, which can be easily sent through the mail 
and then smoked.

But experts said merely touching K2 should not have caused the guards' 

"In a word, it's implausible," said Dr. Lewis Nelson, chair of emergency 
medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and a past president of 
the American College of Medical Toxicology. "One thing we know about 
[synthetic cannabinoids] is that they don't cause the effects these 
folks are having, and certainly not by the route that they're being 
exposed. … The symptoms are much more consistent with anxiety."

Jason Bloom, president of the Pennsylvania State Correctional Officers 
Association, described that theory as "asinine. There's no other way to 
put it. Maybe moronic."

"If that were the case," he added, "then why such a strong reaction from 
the Department of Corrections?"

He described the dangers of K2 as including not only sickness from 
incidental exposure, but also contact with inmates who become violent on 
the drug.

One thing that is not in dispute is that K2 and other drugs have become 
ubiquitous in the state's prison system.

Jerry Davis, a Philadelphia inmate at Albion state prison, said that, 
prior to the statewide lockdown, he observed two or three incidents per 
week of other inmates high on K2: “Guys passing out with K2, guys 
[freaking] out, running around naked. … A sheet of K2, that goes for 
over $1,000 in here. That’s big business in this prison.” And it’s not 
just in Western Pennsylvania: At the recently closed Graterford prison, 
reports of K2 were widespread in the past year, said Jorge Cintron Jr., 
an inmate.

"I find it quite troubling that it seemed to never be an issue with the 
DOC on how prisoners were harming themselves with these synthetic 
drugs," Cintron said. " … It is now a problem because it is affecting 
the DOC staff and officers, allegedly."

Wetzel said that the goal now is not to reduce drug traffic into the 
prisons but to altogether eliminate it.

"The safety and security of staff and inmates is paramount to the 
Department of Corrections," Wetzel said in a statement announcing 
security measures.

Among them: The prisons will shift to e-books and digital magazines, and 
double staff in the visiting rooms. And, all incoming mail must be sent 
to a company called Smart Communications in Seminole, Fla., which will 
scan and forward it at a cost of $4 million annually. The state will pay 
an additional $1.9 million per year for copy machines and paper to 
manage legal mail, which will be photocopied by staff wearing protective 

Also on the horizon: $6 million on new machines to scan visitors for 
contraband, and $2.2 million for drone detection at each prison.

Nelson said those efforts may well be necessary to keep drugs out of the 
institutions. But if the goal is to keep staff safe from incidental 
exposure, he said, "It borders on the irrational. It's panic mode."

Medical experts pointed out that they frequently treat patients who are 
on synthetic cannabinoids without wearing gloves or other protective gear.

"As chemists, we don't even wear face masks," agreed Sherri Kacinko, a 
toxicologist at Willow Grove's NMS Labs who studies substances like K2. 
"The risk is very low."

All acknowledged that the drug compounds in K2 are constantly evolving. 
David Vearrier, a Hahnemann University Hospital emergency doctor, 
said that makes it hard to know the truth.

"Some of the newer synthetic cannabinoids you see on the street are 
really potent, and … have been associated with symptoms in law 
enforcement personnel," he noted, referencing a study of federal agents 
who handled K2 after raiding a drug lab and were later found to have the 
drug in their system. (However, the study also described the agents 
eating and drinking while cataloging the evidence, and noted that most 
of them did not consistently wear gloves.)

To Vearrier, it's not implausible that a correctional officer could run 
into a similar situation. On the other hand, he said, "Just feeling 
anxious about it could cause them to have some of these symptoms. 
There's also a possibility that they want to get an afternoon off work."

Edward Boyer, a Harvard Medical School professor and Brigham and Women's 
emergency doctor, reviewed the prisons' incident logs and responded with 
an audible shrug. "We have no biological testing confirming exposure 
actually happened, and we have a large number of individuals with 
complaints of vague, subjective conditions," he said.

He and others said they'd want to confirm the exposure through blood or 
urine tests. The only results the Department of Corrections have 
released are lab and field tests of the substances found in the prisons.

Without that confirmation, Boyer said the most likely cause is something 
even doctors can relate to: "We treat people who come to the [emergency 
department] with lice all the time. Everyone begins to itch."

*For the PA Department's document on new mail procedures*

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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