Prison mailroom toxin sickens 11

Clinton Correctional Facility, Dannemora. Andrew Burton/Getty Images

DANNEMORA — A toxic substance believed to be fentanyl found Friday in the mailroom at Clinton Correctional Facility sent 11 prison workers to the hospital, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office said .

The governor directed the state police Contaminated Crime Scene Emergency Response Team, the state police Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Department of Corrections and Community Supervision’s Office of Special Investigations to continue testing of the suspected fentanyl.

The substance, found in a letter opened in the mailroom, caused some annex staff to feel ill, a State Department of Corrections official said.

The workers were taken to University of Vermont Health Network, Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital for treatment and later released.

“Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids have sparked a public health crisis that continues to ravage our communities and takes countless lives,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The investigation into this incident continues.”

The incident at Clinton Correctional comes just days after multiple inmates were found to be unresponsive due to overdosing from synthetic marijuana, known as K2, at the Cape Vincent Correctional Facility.

State Assemblyman Mark C. Walczyk, R-Watertown, and state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, announced Friday that they have introduced legislation that would crack down on drugs being smuggled into state prisons through the use of drug sniffing canines. The measure would call on the state to place a drug-sniffing dog in every correctional facility across the state with a minimum of one hundred inmates.

Currently, the state has drug-sniffing canines that are rotated at facilities across the state, but without a drug dog at facilities regularly, it is difficult to cut down on drugs smuggled into inmates from either visitors or via mail.

“There have been far too many incidents inside of our prisons directly related to drug use,” Sen. Ritchie said Friday. “Whether it’s an overdose or a drug fueled attack on correctional officers, we must do more to protect everyone inside our prisons. These dogs can help clean up our facilities and allow them to continue to better rehabilitation efforts.”

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