Pubdate: Tue, 28 Jun 2016
Source: Chronicle Herald (CN NS)
Copyright: 2016 The Halifax Herald Limited
Author: Michael MacDonald


HALIFAX - Correctional officers at a provincial jail in Cape Breton 
failed to follow proper procedures earlier this year when they placed 
a man in a cell, where he died of a drug overdose 13 hours later, 
Nova Scotia's Justice Department says.

The department's review of the case, released Monday, says that when 
Jason Marcel LeBlanc was admitted to the Cape Breton Correctional 
Facility on Jan. 30, staff did not follow all steps in the strip 
search process, and they failed to complete their rounds at standard intervals.

As well, the department concluded staff did not get a required health 
transfer form or an explanation for why escorting officers didn't have one.

"Failures to meet the standards established in policy will be 
addressed through disciplinary action, where appropriate, and through 
coaching," the review said.

No details were provided about the lapses or how they were dealt with.

LeBlanc's father has repeatedly alleged that jail staff failed to do 
enough to ensure his son's safety after he was arrested for a parole violation.

"He didn't have to die," Ernie LeBlanc said in an interview. "He was 
a human being ... Yes, he was an addict, but he wasn't a piece of dirt."

An earlier autopsy report said Jason LeBlanc had entered the cell 
with a bag full of pills and near-fatal levels of methadone in his 
blood. That report concluded he overdosed on a combination of 
methadone and bromezapan, an anti-anxiety drug he swallowed while in the cell.

However, the Justice Department review says the 42-year-old labourer 
did not show signs of impairment or indicate any health concerns when 
was seen by health-care staff at the jail.

The department says no contraband was found on LeBlanc, but it says 
images taken by a surveillance camera inside the cell suggest he had 
probably consumed illicit drugs taken from a small bag concealed in a 
body cavity.

LeBlanc's father challenged that assertion.

"They didn't even do a proper search," he said. "They can't prove 
that my son was carrying those drugs internally. It's a guess ... 
There's no proof."

Provincial legislation does not allow correctional officers to 
conduct internal searches.

However, the director of Correctional Services conceded there's no 
way of knowing for sure if the drugs were concealed in a body cavity.

"Offenders will typically smuggle in contraband in body cavities to 
avoid detection," said Sean Kelly in a phone interview Monday evening.

It appears Jason LeBlanc consumed the pills as early as 1:44 p.m., a 
half hour after he arrived at the jail, the review says, adding that 
he was seen by health-care staff at 3:43 p.m. and again at 6:33 p.m., 
before falling asleep at 7:44 p.m.

Ernie LeBlanc said health-care staff should have noticed his son was 
highly intoxicated by 6:33 p.m., given the amount of drugs in his system.

"There was a window of opportunity to save his life," he said. "But 
they just walked away left him in the cell."

The review says health-care staff had little to say about the 
inmate's condition.

"No recommendation or advice was received from health care for 
special precautions, special watch of the offender or that the 
offender should be transported to the hospital," the review says.

The review did not include any input from health-care officials or a 
review of health records because such measures are prohibited by the 
Personal Health Information Act, the Justice Department said.

"My heart goes out to Mr. LeBlanc's family and loved ones," Justice 
Minister Diana Whalen said in statement. "We will use this tragic 
situation to improve our procedures going forward."

The province's Correctional Services branch, which is part of the 
Justice Department, has committed to consult with health-care 
professionals about reducing the risks associated with drug overdoses.

As for the autopsy report, it said the surveillance video showed the 
inmate's breathing started to slow at 1:50 a.m. on Jan. 31, and it 
took 45 minutes before corrections officers found him unresponsive in 
his cell. He was declared dead at 2:45 a.m.

The video images also show Jason LeBlanc pulling a bag of bromezapan 
pills out of his pants before he begins to lose consciousness, says 
the June 8 report by Dr. Marnie Wood.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom