The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

May 24, 2013

Assaults prompt prison lockdown

Patrick Buchnowski

SOMERSET — State Correctional Institution-Somerset is expected to resume normal operations today after being in lockdown since Thursday, authorities said.

The prison lockdown was in response to inmate assaults on two correctional officers in two weeks, prison spokeswoman Heidi Sroka said. Visitation hours are expected to resume today at the facility located on Walters Mill Road, she said.

Members of the prison’s Special Emergency Response Team and officials from other facilities are searching for drugs and weapons, she said.

“Teams go around and search the entire facility,” Sroka said.

Sroka described the search as routine. “Every year the institution has to be searched – by policy –  twice a year,” she said. “We can do that by shutting down one housing unit or lock down the whole institution.”

The last time the prison was in lockdown was March 27, she said.

In this week’s lockdown, the 2,300 inmates had been confined to their cells and had meals delivered while prison officials searched for contraband, Sroka said.

Details on what, if anything, was found won’t be released until next week, she said. Sroka said she could not give details about the guards who were assaulted or if weapons were involved.

SCI-Somerset is a medium-security prison located on 300 acres. It has about 600 employees.

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