Pubdate: Wed, 18 Feb 2015
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2015 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Molly Hayes
Page: A1

Exclusive - Inmates Are Overdosing: Who's Watching?


The latest inmate to die in the Barton Street jail is one of two 
suspected drug-related deaths in Ontario jails last weekend - and one 
of four overdoses during the past week - according to the union 
representing jail guards.

Monte Vieselmeyer, corrections division chair for the Ontario Public 
Service Employees Union, said drug use in the jails is a major 
concern for guards.

"We (can't say) for sure that the individual at Hamilton died of an 
overdose, but it's suspected," he said.

On Sunday, police and paramedics were called to the jail at about 
9:45 a.m. The inmate - identified by jail sources as Stephen Neeson, 
44 - was pronounced dead.

Neeson, who has a lengthy record, was in jail on robbery and disguise 
with intent charges stemming from a St. George bank robbery in September 2013.

The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services will not 
comment on the cause of death, citing the ongoing investigation by 
police, the regional coroner and the ministry.

Following an autopsy Tuesday, regional coroner Dr. Jack Stanborough 
said the possibility of an overdose is "being given serious 
consideration and the necessary testing is being done."

Toxicology and microscopy results could take several weeks, but if 
the death is deemed to be of unnatural causes, a mandatory inquest 
will be called.

If the death is deemed drug-related, Stanborough said it would likely 
become part of an upcoming inquest into four other drug-related 
deaths at the Barton Street jail since 2012.

Vieselmeyer says there was a suspected drug overdose death in the new 
Toronto South Detention Centre on Saturday. There were also two 
non-fatal overdoses at the Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton last week.

Last Thursday, another inmate at Toronto South Detention Centre died 
in hospital two days after attempting suicide in his cell.

Vieselmeyer said guards cannot perform cavity searches on inmates 
suspected of bringing drugs into the jail.

"A lot of the other issues we're seeing are tied into the drug 
trade," he says - noting that the potential for violence is 
heightened when drugs are present in jails.

Pending the official findings from the coroner, the ministry will not 
comment on the death.

But Vieselmeyer says waiting is futile.

"It does nothing. If there's a problem, it should be recognized," he said.

"Putting practices and policies in place, we should be doing all that (now)."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom