The State Correctional Institution at Somerset is on lockdown as a recent rash of assaults prompted officials to search the facility Thursday.
When a Daily American reporter called the state prison Thursday, the woman who answered the telephone said the facility was under a state of emergency.
"It's something that we do from time to time to make sure we ensure our safety and the inmates' safety," she said. "It's a tool we use."
Department of Corrections spokeswoman Susan McNaughton said the search began Thursday and should conclude today. She said the two inmate assaults on guards required medical attention. The names and conditions of the guards were not released. No charges have been filed.
"They had some assaults," she said. "It's not uncommon when you have those kinds of incidents to lock the facility down and do a search."
McNaughton said it is routine for prisons to be searched a couple times a year. She said the assaults prompted this search.
"We're not doing anything special at Somerset we don't do at any other prisons," she said. "It just happens that it's happening in Somerset."
A Correctional Emergency Response Team was called to assist with the search. McNaughton said the team is searching for any contraband, such as weapons and drugs, that may be inside the prison.
"We just want to make sure there is nothing inside the prison that is not supposed to be there," she said.
She said a section of the prison was locked down a few months ago.
"Now it's an entire system," she said. "They are being fed in their cells. They are not leaving their cells to go to programs, jobs. They are not having any visitors. It disrupts the entire inmate population. We take all assaults seriously."
McNaughton said the lockdowns send a message to inmates and staff that the prison takes assaults seriously.
"It's a dangerous environment and these things happen from time to time," she said.
The medium-security state prison houses more than 2,300 inmates and has approximately 585 employees. Sroka said there have not been any recent staffing changes.
"We have set staffing levels," she said. "That's what we adhere to. If officers are sick or off for vacation, we utilize overtime for that."
State Rep. Carl Walker Metzgar, R-Allegheny Township, said he is working with the Department of Corrections to make sure the county has adequate resources to deal with the problem.
"The nice part is we have the best correction officers and staff at our two SCI facilities that anyone could ever ask for," he said. "Prayers go out to the two corrections officers and their families who have been assaulted in the past two weeks."