HILLSBORO, Ill. – FOX 2 is investigating what suddenly made more than 20 employees inside a central Illinois prison sick; some passed out and others had seizures.
The Illinois Department of Corrections denied a Freedom of Information Act request Wednesday because of an ongoing criminal investigation. The Illinois State Police sent redacted documents that show three items were tested: clothing and two plastic nasal spray bottles. It showed a potentially unknown substance on the clothing, blue liquid in one nasal spray bottle, and brown liquid in the other bottle. The report also showed offenses of criminal drug conspiracy.
“Their statement to me was that there was nothing synthetic found in the testing that they did, baby powder and nasal spray is all they’re telling me,” said Scot Ward, president of Illinois FOP Corrections Lodge 263.
FOX 2 was the only station at Graham Correctional Center on Jan. 18, when police and medics descended on the facility after three inmates and more than 20 employees suddenly became sick.
“If it was or wasn’t a synthetic. I find it odd that 22 people that have those severe of symptoms,” Ward said.
More than half of the employees who received medical care that evening are members of the lodge.
“There were two specific individuals that were acting erratically. When they went to detain them, control them, it got physical,” Ward said.
Union members told him a lieutenant passed out while walking one of the sick inmates to get help. The ISP report showed troopers rushed 58 doses of Narcan to the facility. In all, more than 12 people received a dose of Narcan.
“There are several people that day that had got dizzy, had dilated pupils, extremely high heart rate and blood pressure, vomiting, multiple seizures,” Ward said.
He said Graham’s correctional officers heard about a new drug.
“An offender or couple of offenders had bragged that they had synthetics that weren’t detectable,” Ward said. “Now, is it truthful? We have no idea. But if you add that to the equation on the 18th, it’s possible.”
On Jan. 18, 22 employees went to the hospital; two returned the next day; and three prisoners needed medical attention. The Illinois Department of Corrections said some staff “reported feeling dizzy. The substances were identified as nonhazardous and should not have necessitated the use of Narcan.” IDOC denied FOX 2’s request each time we asked to speak with the warden running the facility.
FOX 2 also requested the testing report directly from the Illinois State Police, who conducted the testing that evening, and they sent us to the Illinois Department of Corrections. When we asked IDOC for the report, we were denied.
“I care about the membership. I care about the offenders’ lives for crying out loud,” Ward said. “Everybody is at risk here. Sit down at the table, and let’s look at some policy changes.”