Christchurch Women’s Prison has launched an operational review of the incident. Photo / RNZ
Three inmates at the Christchurch Women’s Prison were hospitalized after eating worms, licking spiders and consuming the hallucinogenic plant datura, which they found growing in the prison grounds.
Two of the women were so ill that they had to be hospitalized overnight, and the Department of Corrections is investigating how the hallucinogen, a tall shrub that also grows as a weed, grew in the prison.
All three have been accused of violations; but a mother of one of the women said they were “silly” and didn’t know what a plant was, and criticized Corrections for letting it grow there.
Prison director Deborah Alleyne said the three women had taken part in horticultural work at the prison on December 22.
They had been warned by the instructors earlier in the day after daring each other to “eat worms, lick spiders and taste plants,” Alleyne said.
After their lunch break, they were observed by staff to exhibit “related behaviors, including being imbalanced, confused and vomiting.”
The women were removed from work and seen by prison health staff.
The site was locked as a precaution and six staff accompanied them to the hospital.
One woman returned to the prison that evening where her health was monitored, but two were hospitalized overnight and discharged the following day.
There were no ongoing health issues for all of the prisoners involved, Alleyne said.
The women were interviewed and admitted to eating a variety of plants and insects, including plants of the datura species, a potent hallucinogen that can be deadly.
“The plant was removed from the tunnel house and immediately destroyed,” said Alleyne.
“Further checks have been completed across the grounds to ensure that no other similar plants are on site.”
Correction has launched an operational review to confirm how crops are grown in the field.
“The plant is a known weed and has been eradicated in the past few years from the prison grounds,” Alleyne said.
The women had been accused of offenses after the incident, but one of their mothers told the Herald they did not know they were taking hallucinogens.
She also questioned how Correction was able to let plants grow there, and criticized the department for not notifying her after her daughter was hospitalized.
“They didn’t know it was datura, thought it was just a flower, they didn’t even know what it was until afterward.
“They’re just playing games, challenging each other to do silly things.”
She only heard about the incident after her daughter recovered and called her, her mother said.
“He said he almost died, he vomited and his heart almost stopped. The prison has a health and safety responsibility, how could they let this happen? And then they didn’t even tell me that he was taken to the hospital. What are they going to do? have said if he died? “
Datura is one of New Zealand’s most dangerous plants.
It is sometimes eaten by people who want to experience hallucinations, which are caused by the strong alkaloid chemicals from plants.
But this drug has other side effects, including over-stimulating the heart and acting as a powerful muscle relaxant, which can be deadly.
In New Zealand, datura was responsible for entering intensive care, and indirectly caused at least two drowning deaths.
Alleyne said the women’s charges would be heard by an inquiry jury.
“If charges go ahead and they are found or pleaded guilty, they can be penalized with loss of privileges such as television or hobby material, forfeiture of income, or a period of cell confinement.
“Further action can be taken in response to the review’s findings.”