Pubdate: Wed, 18 Feb 2015
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2015 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Nicole O'Reilly
Page: A1
Exclusive: Inmates are overdosing: Who's watching?


The province is not tracking how many inmates are overdosing in jails
across Ontario.

The government has no central database of this information, despite
drugs being such a concern that the regional coroner is planning an
inquest that will examine the overdose deaths of four inmates at the
Barton Street jail.

Non-fatal overdoses are seen by experts as a way to gauge the drug
problem and predict drug deaths and violence.

Federally, Correctional Service Canada tracks overdoses and other
major incidents inside prisons. But in Ontario, the Ministry of
Community Safety and Correctional Services does not track this data,
including for the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre.

The regional coroner is expected to call the joint inquest later this

Another inmate, whom jail sources identified as Stephen Neeson, died
Sunday of a possible overdose. It's not yet clear whether his death
will also be included in the inquest.

In response to a Freedom of Information request seeking overdose
statistics at the jail, the ministry said it couldn't provide them
because they don't exist. That information is "not tracked in a
central database," the response reads.

It's only found in an inmate's personal health files. The ministry
would need to do an "extensive manual search" of each inmate's health
file, the letter says. They would also need to track down the medical
files of inmates moved to other institutions because personal files
transfer with inmates.

The ministry, however, contends it has a good handle on drugs inside
the jail, because it tracks incidents where contraband, including
drugs, is seized.

These "statistics are an important tool for the local f acilities
which assist with tracking the trends of contraband and determining
what efforts need to be made to reduce and eliminate contraband where
possible," spokesperson Brent Ross said i n an email.

He added that the ministry "works very hard to remove and stop
contraband from coming into our correctional facilities."

Security tools include performing regular searches, use of the BOSS
(body orifice security scanner) chairs that detect metal, hand-held
metal detectors and access todrug-sniffing dogs, Ross said.

Recently, nearly $780,000 was spent upgrading security, including
netting and cameras, at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre.

As Canada's Correctional Investigator, Howard Sapers has access to
daily reports from Correctional Service Canada detailing major
incidents that happened in prisons the day before, including overdoses.

His office has a mandate to investigate incidents of serious bodily
harm and death. These investigations are separate from any internal
corrections, police or coroner investigations.

"If the goal is to find a weakness in the system, you have to
understand the causes," Sapers said.

The daily situation reports are very useful, he said, because they
give a snapshot of what's happening across the country.

"It also then begins to give you trends and patterns, so you can begin
to see if you have problems building up in one institution, region or
one correctional issue."

Overdose deaths are tracked provincially through coroner's inquests.
Since 2010, officially there have been four inmate overdose deaths in
Ontario jails - but that number only reflects cases where an inquest
has already been heard, a process that typically takes at least a year.

Between 2003 and 2013, 536 inmates at federal prisons died - 3.7 per
cent, or about 20 were from overdoses, according to the Office of the
Correctional Investigator annual reports.

Those reports also track what are called "overdoses interrupted" -
meaning overdoses where medical intervention saved the person's life.
In the 2010-2011, prisons had a high of 53 interrupted overdoses. That
number has decreased significantly in subsequent years, with 11 cases
in 2011-2012, 17 in 2012-2013 and nine in 2013-2014.

The province knows there is a problem, but doesn't seem to want to
acknowledge just how bad things have become, says OPSEU corrections
division chair Monte Vieselmeyer.

Drugs in jails make things unsafe for inmates and correctional
officers, he said, adding that inmate-on-inmate assaults and assaults
on staff are "through the roof."

Knowing how frequently inmates are overdosing and whether there are
any trends to those overdoses is vital information to fighting drugs
in the jails, Vieselmeyer said.

"I think for the front line officer it's very important, helps us more
accurately supervise the inmates," he said.

Vieselmeyer would like to see full body scanners, like those used in
some U.S. jails, i n Ontario. These scanners would detect drugs and
other contraband hidden in body orifices that is not picked up by
existing security.

This technology was approved for pilot site at the Toronto South
Detention Centre, but the jail is still waiting for it to be
installed, he said.

"Our current tools are not very accurate," he said.

The Toronto superjail is also the site of another suspected overdose
death this past weekend.

Drugs inside jails is a "very frustrating topic for correctional
officers," said Stephen Smith, a Barton correctional officer and OPSEU
Local 248 president.

He accuses the ministry of "turning a blind eye," to the extent of the
problem. He echoed the call for better technology.

"At any point, or any time of day, you can go to any area inside the
inmate populated areas, and the smell of drugs will be prevalent and
the inmates will be intoxicated," he said.

April Tykoliz, the sister of Marty Tykoliz, whose May 3, 2014, death
sparked the pending joint inquest, says she just wants to make sure
this doesn't happen again.

She believes the system that allowed her brother to die is

"We need change because nobody is taking responsibility," she

- ---------------------------------------------------


The deaths of four Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre inmates will be
part of a rare joint inquest examining drugs in the jail. It's not yet
clear if the death of Stephen Neeson, who died of a possible overdose
Sunday, will be included.

Name: Marty Tykoliz

Age: 38

Died: May 6, 2014

Tykoliz was one of three inmates taken to hospital with overdose
symptoms the night before, but was returned to jail hours later and
then found unconscious in his cell in the morning.

Name: Trevor Burke

Age: 38

Died: March 25, 2014

Burke died from a blood infection that began in drug tract

Name: Louis Unelli

Age: 41

Died: March 16, 2012

An inquest into Unelli's death was put on hold last year, to be
included in the joint inquest.

Name: William Acheson

Age: 42

Died: Sept. 12, 2012
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