The Crusader Newspaper Group

Illinois prison staff, inmates recovering after being exposed to foreign substance

About 20 individuals at an Illinois prison near Hillsboro are recovering after being exposed to what Illinois Department of Corrections officials say was a “foreign substance.”

On Wednesday, a staff member at Graham Correctional Center responded to a medical incident involving individuals in custody who appeared to be under the influence of an unknown substance, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Corrections said in a statement.

Scot Ward with the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Corrections Lodge 263 said there were some rumors going around on social media and even some news reports.

“There was no staged fight which I saw and heard that there was a staged fight, somebody threw a bunch of powder in the air, got everybody exposed and there was an attempted escape, that is false,” Ward told The Center Square.

What really happened, he said, is several inmates displayed behavior indicating intoxication.

“And after that, 22 staff members seemed to have some kind of symptoms of what they thought was a synthetic drug they believed to be fentanyl,” Ward said. “At this point, I’m not sure that that’s factual. I’m just telling you what they thought at that time.”

IDOC said the situation is developing and further information will be made available, but they did not indicate what the foreign substance was. The Illinois State Police Hazmat Team was on the premises investigating.

“All staff are stable currently and many have already been discharged,” the spokesman said. “The affected individuals in custody are receiving treatment in the facility’s Healthcare Unit.”

Ward said the department did a good job of responding quickly. But, he said the issue highlights the need for even more enhancing searches of inmate mail in the face of things like fentanyl laced paper.

“I know Menard Correctional Center is seizing pages and pages of synthetic drugs nearly every week,” Ward said. “There’s still problems throughout the facility and it’s coming through the mail. Will the department or the governor’s office change their course on how they have incoming mail coming into the facility, that still remains to be seen.”

Ward made a similar pushback in September, noting stories he heard from lodge members throughout last year.

This is article originally appeared on The Center Square.

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