Violent reactions to drug sent the inmates to hospitals on Christmas Eve.
A Christmas Eve incident involving LSD use by inmates at the state prison in Faribault turned chaotic when six prisoners suffered violent drug reactions that sent two to the hospital by ambulance and four to the Twin Cities by medical helicopter.
The six inmates had attended a Narcotics Anonymous meeting that morning and passed the synthetic drug among themselves, according to corrections reports and interviews with authorities.
Attempted drug smuggling is a near-daily event at Minnesota prisons, but authorities said the December incident was unusual for the violent reactions the drug touched off and the volatile 10-hour sequence of events that followed.
High-ranking corrections officials would not characterize the significance of the incident, but they acknowledged that prison guards were exposed to a sequence of medical emergencies and physical confrontations with violent, hallucinating prisoners.
"Our first mission in running a prison is protecting the safety of the staff and the inmates," Assistant Commissioner David Crist said in an interview. "Smuggling drugs into prisons has been going on forever, and we are constantly conducting exercises to stay on top of it.''
The state Department of Corrections is investigating how the drug was smuggled past guards and how widely it might have been distributed. A former inmate is suspected of smuggling the LSD, contained on small pieces of absorbent paper, into the prison, authorities said. No arrests have been made.
All the prisoners who were hospitalized have recovered and are back in the state's largest prison, which holds more than 2,000 inmates. Most of the offenders who attended the meeting are members of the Prison Motorcycle Brotherhood, authorities said.
Crist said the department conducts monthly urine analyses on 10 percent of all offenders in drug treatment, in addition to random searches of staff, mail and phone monitoring and strip searches of inmates after visits.
Two other cases of alleged drug smuggling involving three offenders are pending in the Rice County attorney's office. Last year, prison staff assigned to observe the visiting area discovered an attempt by two inmates to smuggle cocaine into the prison. In another case, cocaine and marijuana were found in an inmate's room.
Blood on the floor
According to internal reports and interviews with authorities, the series of LSD events unfolded as follows:
About 12:33 p.m. on Dec. 24, guards found an inmate in his room, lying on the floor and unresponsive. The man was taken by ambulance to the hospital in Faribault, and doctors there ordered that he be airlifted to Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.
At 3:10 p.m., a second prisoner was so out of control in his room that he was sprayed with a chemical irritant and then restrained. He, too, was taken to the hospital and then airlifted to Abbott Northwestern. Five minutes later, guards found another prisoner acting in a similar manner, and he also was airlifted to Minneapolis.
Just past 7 p.m., a prisoner notified guards of blood on the floor of his room and on his roommate's bed sheets. The man's wounds, apparently self-inflicted, were severe enough that guards applied pressure to stop the bleeding. He was eventually flown to the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.
Three minutes later, guards found another inmate disoriented and face down in his room. He said he'd taken prescription drugs and was transported to the local hospital and was returned to the prison the next day.
At 10:30 p.m., another inmate was discovered out of control in his room. He was sprayed with a chemical irritant and then restrained by the staff. He was taken by ambulance to St. Joseph's Hospital in St. Paul.
By the time the evening was over, an entire wing of one unit was under lockdown.
The hospitalized inmates recovered and were later returned to the prison.
Paul McEnroe • 612-673-1745
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