USP Canaan inmate death from fentanyl

By OWEN WALSH
Posted 12/13/19

CANAAN TOWNSHIP, PA — Wayne County Coroner Edward Howell has determined that Gary Fama, an inmate at United State Penitentiary (USP) Canaan who died in September, died from the pharmacological …

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USP Canaan inmate death from fentanyl

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CANAAN TOWNSHIP, PA — Wayne County Coroner Edward Howell has determined that Gary Fama, an inmate at United State Penitentiary (USP) Canaan who died in September, died from the pharmacological effects of fentanyl, a powerful opioid. The death was ruled accidental.

The death occurred in the midst of a statewide debate about prison security. Over the summer, prison employees had gotten sick when coming into contact with inmates’ unauthorized drugs on more than one occasion. Guards at USP Canaan have maintained that the drugs get into the facility through the mail. 

In August, Sen. Pat Toomey and Sen. Bob Casey joined other PA politicians in urging the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to enhance its mailing security by modeling its system after the one in place at PA state prisons. Except for legal mail, all mail sent to PA prisons goes to a processing facility in Florida, where it is photocopied and sent back through email.

The BOP responded to the politicians, saying that USP Canaan will soon partake in a pilot program to tighten up mail security. Prison employees, like Joseph Pellicano with USP Canaan, say that a new mailing procedure is long overdue. But civil rights attorneys, like Sara Rose with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, have argued that concerns about mail safety are “way overblown” and that not allowing inmates to receive mail directly is “heartless.”

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