Pubdate: Sat, 16 Aug 2014
Source: Windsor Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 The Windsor Star
Author: Trevor Wilhelm
Page: A3


In an effort to stem the tide of narcotics being smuggled in to
Windsor's jail system, a coroner's jury wants the province to start
using drug dogs and stop housing weekend inmates with the general 

The suggestions were among 15 recommendations, which focused heavily
on drug abuse, a jury put forward Friday following the inquest into
the death Windsor Jail inmate Kendra Blackbird.

The issue of intermittent inmates - who serve their time on weekends
and live the rest of the week in the community - was a main focus of
the inquest. Police, a former inmate and corrections officers all
testified it's common knowledge that intermittent inmates smuggle
drugs into the facility.

"What we did hear is there are still gaps in the system," said
Elizabeth Brown, counsel to the coroner. "The jury listened, the jury
gave very thoughtful recommendations that addressed those gaps. The
jury was able to acknowledge, and heard evidence, that drug use and
abuse within the Windsor Jail is very prevalent. Many of the
recommendations speak directly to that drug use and abuse, and systems
that need to be put into place to address it and manage it."

Blackbird, 34, a member of Walpole Island First Nation, died Oct. 1,
2012 after she was found comatose in her Windsor Jail cell.

An autopsy revealed she had a cocktail of drugs in her system
including Oxycodone and sedatives, which combined together to amplify
their effects on her body. After an intermittent inmate smuggled the
drugs into the jail, Blackbird stayed up all night crushing the pills
and snorting them. She went to bed the following morning and never got
up again.

"The evidence showed from the corrections officers, almost every one
of them that was asked, that drug abuse or substance abuse issues is
prevalent among inmates," said Brown. "We heard statistics like 90 per
cent. This is off the top of their head, but at the same time no one
was surprised."

Six of the recommendations were aimed at the new Southwest Detention
Centre. The others were for the Ministry of Community Safety and
Correctional Services.

Recommendations for the jail included "refresher training" for jail
staff on the management and supervision of medical conditions,
including drug addiction and overdose.

They jury wants the ministry to continue to explore and implement
emerging techniques and technologies for detecting contraband in
correctional facilities.

They also want it to consider using drug detecting dogs around
inmates. Other recommendations include creating a separate policy to
manage drug overdoses, and implementing Native-specific programming
for Indigenous inmates.

The ministry has a year to address the verdict and make

Ministry counsel Amal Chaudry pointed out that Windsor Jail will soon
be replaced by the newer, bigger and modern detention centre. She said
the new facility will address many of the concerns in the
recommendations. But she also acknowledged it's an ongoing process.

"The assessment is continuous," said Chaudry. "The needs of an inmate
population in any particular jurisdiction are continuously changing,
so there's never a policy that you can sit on and say 'that's it.' The
ministry is very aware of that and they continue to look at their policies."

Raymond Colautti, who represented Blackbird's family at the inquest,
said he believes the recommendations could save lives in the future.

"So on behalf of the family we're satisfied, though of course greatly
saddened," he said.

"It has a very bittersweet result. She's not here. It's a tragedy that
could have been prevented.

"There were five or six things that could have been done along the way
that could have avoided it. As is usual in a very complex system,
there's been sort of a cascade of failures, any one of which if
changed would have led to a different result."
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