Lawmakers Look to Improve Safety in Prison

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HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) More inmates are assaulting state prison staff… Rates went up four-percent in the first half of the year. Now, officials both at the Capitol and the department of corrections are working on ways to prevent that violence. Our Harrisburg Reporter Matt Heckel reports

Lisa Wise was a registered nurse for the state’s department of corrections for ten years. She says in that time the amount of violence toward staff inside the prison walls has continued to rise.

  “We walk in there not knowing whether we’re going to walk out.” Wise noted

After an attack in February… Sgt. Mark Baserman became the first State Correctional officer to be killed by an inmate in Pennsylvania in almost 40 years.

  “In the past 20 years, we’ve lost our ability to control our jails properly.” Said Chris Busko.

On Wednesday… Former prison staff urged lawmakers to pass a series of bills aimed at protecting those corrections officers. They would include eliminating the possibility of parole for inmates convicted of staff assault as well as an additional, mandatory five year sentence.

  “I can’t think of anything of a higher priority to ensure the safety of all our staff.”

Tabb Bicknell with the Department of Corrections believes the increase in violence in state prisons is directly linked to an increased drug trade in prison. This week… The DOC released a new plan to combat both including more K-9s, an increased use of body scanners and a review of procedures for inmate mail processing to keep drugs and violence out.

  “We will not leave one stone unturned, as we fight to keep these drugs outside of our institution, and to protect our staff.” Said Bicknell

And while there has been an uptick in violence this year… Violence in Pennsylvania State Prisons is down over the last 25 years.

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