Fatal inmate overdoses highlight drug smuggling problem in Ontario jails
A union boss says more must be done to stem the flow of drugs into Canadian jails, in the wake of two fatal inmate overdoses.
According to the union representing Ontario corrections officers, provincial jails are understaffed, overcrowded and badly in need of full-body scanners to control the prison drug trade.
“There’s a demand for drugs in our correctional facilities,” said Monte Vieselmeyer, corrections division chair of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. Vieselmeyer says inmates will use “every which way imaginable” to smuggle drugs into prison, and there are limitations on what corrections officers can do to search for those drugs.
“Any way they can think to get them in, they do,” Vieselmeyer told CTV’s Canada AM on Thursday.
The outcry comes in the wake of two deaths at Toronto and Hamilton facilities, and two non-fatal overdoses at a third facility in Milton, Ont. last week.
The OPSEU says two Ontario inmates died of drug overdoses in the last week. One incident occurred at Toronto’s new South Detention Centre on Saturday, OPSEU said. The other death occurred at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre.
Two other inmates survived overdoses at the Maplehurst Correctional Centre in Milton, Ont., according to OPSEU.
Inmates use a variety of means to smuggle drugs into Ontario facilities, from going into a new facility with drugs hidden in their bodies to getting an accomplice to throw the drugs over a prison wall.
Vieselmeyer says some innovative Quebec smugglers have even used drones to deliver drugs to their accomplices in jail.
“As that equipment becomes cheaper, that’s a concern for us,” Vieselmeyer said.
But Vieselmeyer says staff are more concerned with catching smugglers who hide drugs in their anal cavities. “That’s not a pleasant thing to think about, but that’s one of the ways they do it,” he said.
He says jail staff will strip-search new inmates and give them new clothes, but they can’t conduct a cavity search.
That’s where full-body scanners would be of great use, Vieselmeyer said. He says the scanners are already in use in U.S. prisons, and he hopes Canada will move to incorporate them into its jails in the near future.
The isolated, tightly-controlled jail environment makes it a seller’s market for drug dealers, Vieselmeyer said. He added that drugs can be sold in jail for up to 30 times their street price.
The drug trade has also been labelled one of the top reasons for inmate-on-inmate violence at Canadian prisons.