Six Rock County Jail inmates ingested jimson weed, sheriff's office says

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Gazette staff
Tuesday, April 1, 2014

JANESVILLE—Six inmates are in trouble after ingesting a hallucinogenic plant that apparently was growing on the grounds of the Rock County Jail.

Four of the inmates were cleaning up the grounds Monday when one of them identified the jimsonweed, said jail Cmdr. Erik Chellevold.

The inmates brought the weed back into the jail and the four, along with two others, chewed and swallowed it, Chellevold said.

Jailers' first clue was one of the inmates behaving strangely, according to a news release.

“It was apparent to us that they were having some level of hallucination. They were not responsive to our commands,” Chellevold said.

Jail medical staff was called, and the inmates were taken to Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center in Janesville shortly after midnight Tuesday.

Jimsonweed is not illegal, but there are laws about bringing things into the jail, so investigators are looking into what charges might be brought, Chellevold said.

The four inmates who found the plant were in the Rock County Education and Criminal Addictions Program, commonly known as RECAP, who were doing community service as part of the program, Chellevold said.

Chellevold said officials didn't know the weed was growing on the jail grounds. He said volunteers who help with the RECAP garden have eradicated the weed and burned it.

Chellevold said Tuesday afternoon that investigators had talked to four of the inmates, who were expected to be released from the hospital soon.

The investigation included a search of the jail, which did not turn up anything of interest, Chellevold said.

“In small quantities, jimsonweed can have medicinal or hallucinogenic properties, but poisoning readily occurs because of misuse,” according to the website of Cornell University's agriculture program.

Jimsonweed grows over most of the continental United States, the website says.

Treatment for jimsonweed poisoning includes stomach pumping, ingesting charcoal and intravenous fluids, Chellevold said.

Chellevold said he hadn't known that jimsonweed could be found in this area.

“Apparently it's pretty common,” he said.

Janice Peterson, a horticulturalist at Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville said the plant is common here, and some varieties are grown as ornamentals.

Peterson speculated the plant the inmates found was a remnant from last year's growing season.

Last updated: 2:34 pm Tuesday, April 1, 2014

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