Pubdate: Tue, 25 Aug 2015
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2015 Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Matt Dykstra
Page: 3

'Huge Problems'

Prison Guards Sounding the Alarm Over Recent Inmate Overdoses

The maximum-security Edmonton Institution went into lockdown and 
exceptional search on Aug. 19 after three inmates were rushed to 
hospital due to drug overdoses. Two were later released while one 
remains in stable condition. A fourth inmate, 31-year-old Ryan 
William Witvoet, was found unresponsive in his cell the following day 
on Aug. 20 from an apparent drug overdose and later died in hospital.

Corrections officials are waiting on toxicology results to identify 
the substance. However, sources have told the Edmonton Sun that the 
overdoses are related to the synthetic opioid fentanyl, or a similar 
version of the drug, making its way into the population.

"These are individual lives at risk from drugs so we're trying to 
save their lives and it takes a huge toll on the officer," said James 
Bloomfield, Prairie region president of the Union of Canadian 
Correctional Officers (UCCO).

"There are serious concerns. It's a huge problem and it's not just 
something like fentanyl getting in. It's every drug that you can 
think of getting into the institution and then there's people's 
responses and how they react to them."

Correctional officers have already seen serious overdoses at both the 
Drumheller and Bowden institutions this year, Bloomfield said.

While the introduction of drug-detecting dogs combined with 
surveillance, visitor screening and other security measures have 
helped slow the introduction of narcotics into Alberta's federal 
institutions, Bloomfield said guards are also grappling with new 
technology such as drones.

Despite regular sweeps of the exercise yard, some prisons are having 
problems with contraband delivery from the relatively cheap and 
easy-to-use quad-copter devices, he said.

"They can fly over and drop a package into the exercise yard and it's 
very difficult at that point to catch it all when that comes in," 
Bloomfield explained, adding narcotics can enter the prison system in 
various ways, many of which are difficult to detect.

"With something like this, I believe it's very, very difficult if not 
impossible to stop it. We have to manage it very well in order for it 
not to be something like these scenarios with several 
it becomes a rarity instead of what it is right now."
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