Pubdate: Fri, 22 Dec 2017
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Jonny Wakefield
Page: 9


Alberta correctional facilities have recorded more than 120 overdoses
in the past two years, and dozens more in federal prisons in the
province, new statistics show.

Postmedia obtained the data after a string of overdoses at the
Edmonton Remand Centre.

Since Nov. 29, at least three inmates at the remand centre have been
found unresponsive in their cells after apparent overdoses, one of
whom died.

Despite efforts to keep contraband out of correctional institutions -
including use of ion scanners, body scanners and detector dogs - the
statistics show deadly opioids such as fentanyl are still getting in.

Between January 2016 and Nov. 30 of this year, 122 suspected overdoses
were reported in provincial correctional facilities, 95 per cent
involving opioids, according to Alberta Health Services (AHS). Three
provincial inmates have died of overdoses in the past two years.

Another 46 overdoses were reported in federal correctional
institutions in Alberta between 2015-16 and this fiscal year,
Correctional Service Canada data shows.

Scott Conrad, chair of AUPE Local 003 and a correctional officer at
the Calgary Remand Centre, said the provincial overdose numbers would
likely double when you include overdoses where a correctional officer
administers naloxone and the patient is not hospitalized.

He said overdoses have "spiked" in the past 18 months. That's a
concern for staff at the jail, who have reportedly fallen ill after
touching opioids. He knew of at least 12 cases where officers were
examined in hospital "due to cross-contamination of opioids."

"It's not just the correctional officers, it's the nurses, it's the
public works department that has to go into these cells ... and do
repairs," he said. "The plethora of people who come into contact with
these inmates who overdose, it's really disturbing."

Inmates smuggle the majority of drugs into correctional facilities, he

Contract workers, correctional officers and lawyers have also been
caught smuggling drugs and other contraband.

This fall, in response to inmate overdoses, the provincial government
run Edmonton Remand Centre installed the province's first body
scanner, an X-ray machine similar to those at airports that can detect
weapons and drugs on people entering the facility. That includes drugs
hidden in body cavities.

Security director Ken Johnston told reporters at the time that there
hasn't been an increase in contraband being smuggled into the
facility. "It's the potency of what's coming in that is raising the

Conrad said he "fully" supports body scanners. However, he said that
the scanner at the remand is not fully functional because there still
aren't enough staff trained in its use. "As the union, we brought
those concerns forward," he said.

Despite upfront costs of around $580,000, he said body scanners would
save money in the long run - for example, on wrongful death lawsuits
brought by family members of inmates exposed to drugs in jail.

Both federal and provincial agencies said that in addition to
targeting the drug supply, they are working to reduce demand through
treatment programs.

AHS started a pilot project at the Calgary Correctional Centre to
offer opioid dependency treatment to patients with substance abuse
issues, a spokesperson said in a written statement.

As of Nov. 27, Alberta had recorded 482 accidental drug overdose
deaths in 2017 related to opioids - up 40 per cent from the same
period last year.
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