In this Oct. 4, 2018, Pennsylvania Corrections Department mail inspector Brian Strawser sorts inmate mail at Camp Hill state prison in Camp Hill, Pa. Pennsylvania prison officials say new mail handling procedures and other changes appear to have helped address a spate of incidents this year in which correctional officers and other staff have sought medical treatment believed to be caused by exposure to synthetic marijuana that was smuggled into state prisons.
Katie is a reporter for PA Post and she hosts its political podcast State of the State. For two years she has covered the legislature, governor, and a wide range of political issues for public radio stations across Pennsylvania.
The commonwealth’s prison system just settled a federal lawsuit over mail policies in its prisons. It’s a big win for public defenders and nonprofit groups that represent inmates, and it’s a milestone after months of controversy and speculation about a raft of new security measures the Department of Corrections put in place last fall.
To understand exactly what happened and what it means, we’ll bring you back to late August, when the DOC suddenly locked down all its prisons for almost two weeks after a spike in reports of staff falling ill from exposure to smuggled drugs.
We’ll explain the legal complexities that surround incarcerated people’s legal correspondences, and we’ll hear from an ACLU lawyer and the state corrections secretary—two people with very different perspectives on what exactly is happening in the prisons.