THE BRONX (WABC) — A New York correctional officer was rushed to the hospital after being exposed to fentanyl while sorting inmate mail. This comes just weeks after the New York State Landing was exposed to fentanyl while on the job this month in Long Island.

An officer’s hands went numb Friday night while sorting mail in the Bronx, despite wearing gloves. Workers administered Narcan, a drug that helps reverse an overdose, and sent her to the hospital. She was treated and released.

As 7 On Your Side Investigates found earlier this month, people are sending letters and books laced with fentanyl to inmates. As soon as the mail arrives, the inmate tears off pieces of paper and sells them to other inmates. It is then smoked or chewed to get high.

Officers confiscated everything from children’s drawings to love letters to entire books that were sent to prison with the synthetic opioid.

At a recent city hearing, a Department of Corrections commissioner said it’s a growing problem.

“Books are meant to be read, not to be filled with fentanyl,” said Commissioner Luis Molina. “We’re looking into all measures to keep fentanyl and all drugs out of our facilities,” he said.

The Department of Corrections’ solution is to have all inmate mail electronically scanned before entering the building and to have inmates view mail on electronic tablets.

Some city commissioners, including the chairman of the city’s Criminal Justice Committee, oppose the plan.

“We want to make sure it’s affordable and accessible,” said Councilwoman Carlina Rivera. “And secondly, we’re not removing one of the most human elements, which is the physical mail that comes from your family member,” she said.

Rivera believes there should be a universal way to physically scan visitors and workers entering prison buildings.

Last year, 56 visitors, as well as two employees of the colony, were caught for drugs.

“People entering the island can decide who to scan and who to look at in terms of smuggling, and so if there’s a universal system for scanning, we could really get to the root of the problem,” Rivera said.

But after the worker was exposed this weekend, the commissioner and the union representing the officers said it was another example of why the city should move forward with the scanning process.

In a statement, Commissioner Molina said: “The health and safety of our officers is our top priority. This dangerous incident reinforces the importance of digitizing our postal processes, as they do in more than 140 other correctional facilities across the country, including New York State. We must use every tool available to stem the flow of illegal drugs into our prisons, including body scanners, greater use of our K-9 unit and digital mail to prevent incidents like this and keep staff and inmates safe.”

COBA president Benny Bosio said: “We need more safeguards to protect our members and the move to paperless mail must be implemented immediately.”

READ ALSO | Woman pleads guilty to stealing cousin’s $1 million New York State Lottery jackpot


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