Pubdate: 10 October 1998
Source: London Free Press (Canada)
Author: John Herbert
Copyright: (c) 1998 The London Free Press


Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre officials hope sandblasting a section
of windows, blocking prisoners' view of an outside work yard, will
stem the flow of drugs into the jail.

Supt. John Lockhart said yesterday the decision follows inmates
carrying drugs and other contraband from an outside work and exercise
yard under threats from other inmates.

He said the smuggled drugs include mostly narcotics in the form of
pills but also cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana and other contraband.

"Some prisoners have been threatened with physical harm if they don't
comply,'' Lockhart said. "Smuggling drugs is an ongoing problem we try
to stop. It's not a big problem, but certainly if it was not
controlled, it would get out of hand.''

The views from windows in six cells and two larger windows in a range
or common area of one of the units have been blocked. Lockhart said
inmates can no longer see the outside, but sunlight has not been obscured.

Lockhart said the contraband is often left in the yard by visitors to
EMDC who climb a small fence. Inmates inside indicate the location of
the hiding spots to inmates on outside work detail. They sneak the
drugs into the jail inside their bodies, he said.

The inmates making the threats are among the institution's most
dangerous offenders, including murderers and those convicted of armed
robbery, Lockhart said. Many are being held in the range until they
are transferred to federal prisons.

"These guys have been around -- trust me,'' he said.

The prisoners allowed outside are considered lower-risk and less
dangerous. Those who smuggle drugs frequently do so for profit,
favour, protection or pay back.

Jail officials use strip searches and searches by dogs routinely to
try to prevent drugs from entering EMDC.

The decision to block the windows is not popular with some

A small group called The Free Press to talk about the windows being
blocked, but didn't mention the drug problem.

One caller said it was wrong to have their view of the outside world
blocked from the common area where they sit eight hours a day.

"There are some crazy people in here ready to snap,'' the caller
"They can't treat us like nothings.''

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Checked-by: Rich O'Grady