Pubdate: Fri, 25 Jan 2008
Source: Expositor, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2008 The Brantford Expositor
Author: Vincent Ball
Bookmark: (Incarceration)


Illegal drugs make it into the city jail despite a thorough 
strip-search of inmates before they enter the maximum security 
facility, a coroner's inquest into an inmate's death heard Thursday.

"It's really difficult. It's impossible to stop the flow of drugs 
into the jail," Dave Wilson, the jail's deputy superintendent, said 
after explaining the numerous ways inmates get drugs.

Often, when an inmate knows he's going to make a court appearance, 
he'll ask for a change of clothes from home. Drugs are sewn into the 
clothing, which is given to the prisoner prior to his court appearance.

Sometimes drugs are thrown over the wall surrounding the jail, 
although this isn't always successful because a mesh-type fence catches a lot.

The most common method of smuggling is through the anal cavity. The 
drug is put inside a condom or rubber glove that is placed inside the 
anal cavity and subsequently brought into the jail.

Corrections officials are not allowed to conduct cavity searches on 
inmates, Wilson told the inquest. The only exception would be in 
extremely rare medical situations. Guards do conduct random drug 
searches once a week.

The drug smuggling tactics of inmates was described by Wilson and a 
couple of other witnesses, Dennis Shewfelt and Russell McGilvery, who 
have both worked as jail supervisors.

Both men were employed at the jail on March 18, 2005, the day Bernard 
McNeil was found lying motionless in his cell just before 6:30 a.m. 
It was later determined that McNeil, 32, died of Oxycondone poisoning.

Under the Coroner's Act, an inquest is mandatory when a person dies 
while in custody. A jury often makes recommendations aimed a 
preventing similar deaths in the future.

City Det. Don Pancoe investigated McNeil's death and told the inquest 
there wasn't any problem between McNeil and his cellmates.

During the investigation, police were told that McNeil had between 50 
and 60 Oxycondone pills and that he had consumed between eight and 10 
sometime on the night of March 17.

syringe found

Investigators were also told that McNeil had not said anything that 
would suggest he was suicidal.

McGilvery testified that when he showed up for work on the night of 
March 17, he was told that a syringe with a line on it had been found.

Attaching a line to a syringe is a way of passing the syringe from 
one unit in the jail to another. As a result of the discovery, there 
was a unit lockdown at the jail.

Sgt. Michael Reid, of city police, testified that he found two dime 
bags, small baggies that contained pills, in the top bunk. One bag 
had beige pills, while the other one had white ones.

Samples were sent to the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto for 
analysis. The syringe was also sent to the centre, as were blood 
samples taken from McNeil.

Dr. Marie Elliot, of the centre, testified that traces of Oxycondone 
- - a narcotic painkiller - could be found on the syringe. The blood 
samples revealed high, fatal levels of oxycondone.

Tests found that McNeil had 0.64 milligrams of Oxycondone per one 
litre of blood when he died. That, she said, was about three times 
the level considered to be fatal.

Tests further showed the presence of Lorazepam, another drug. The 
amount of Lorazepam was consistent with therapeutic levels but it, 
like Oxycondone, is a drug that affects the central nervous system. 
It would worsen the effects of the Oxycondone in McNeil's system.

People who abuse oxycondone typically crush the pill into powder. 
This also accelerates the effect of the drug and removes the 
time-release component of the pill.

The inquest also heard from Mary Alderson, the jail's health 
co-ordinator, who was called to McNeil's cell when he was discovered 
by a jail guard.

McNeil's pupils were dilated and he was not breathing when she 
arrived on the scene.

She said a lot of illicit drugs are brought into the jail.

Since McNeil's death, jail officials try to put people who they 
believe may be in trouble as a result of taking drugs in a 
segregation cell or in an upper level holding cell, where they can be 
monitored more closely.

However, she said the jail doesn't have the space to put every inmate 
who has taken illicit drugs into segregation.

The jail has three segregation cells. Wilson testified they are used 
to hold violent inmates, as well as those that are on a suicide 
watch. He further testified that segregation is one of many options 
for inmates who may be in danger of overdosing.

However, no one has testified that McNeil appeared to be in danger. 
The inquest continues today.
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