KENORA – Drugs in jails can cause serious problems. There have been a rash of drug overdoses in Northwestern Ontario over recent weeks. Those overdoses from illegal drugs have includes three inmates who were housed in the Kenora Jail.
Correction facilities in Northwestern Ontario, specifically Kenora and Thunder Bay are aging facilities. Today, Thunder Bay Atikokan MPP Judith Montieth Farrell speaking to NetNewsLedger said that the conditions at the Thunder Bay District Jail are disgusting.
Despite the conditions of these aging facilities, corrections staff were able to save the lives of inmates at the Kenora Jail who had overdosed on Fentanyl over a twenty-four hour period on July 20, 2020.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) is praising the heroic actions of correctional staff at the Kenora Jail that saved the lives of five inmates who had overdosed on fentanyl over a 24-hour period.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says it’s an example of how vigilant OPSEU’s members in Corrections are.
“We saw last month’s clear-headed reaction to COVID-19,” said Thomas. “Now we see another example corrections staff showing calm, dedication, and ingenuity to prevent a tragedy from occurring. This kind of professionalism happens day in and day out across Ontario.”
Three overdoses were reported just after 9 pm on July 20, 2020. Officers and two nurses rushed to provide first aid. Since the only available ambulance would have taken an hour to reach the jail, officers drove the inmates to hospital in secure vans.
In the absence of 24-hour nursing, nurses stayed on all night at the hospital. This was fortunate for two inmates who overdosed early the next day. Once again, officers and nurses saved their lives. Because of chronic short-staffing at the jail, no officers could be spared to escort the inmates to hospital, so the facility’s superintendent jumped in to help, along with an OPP superintendent.
Chris Jackel, chair of the division that represents OPSEU Corrections workers, said it’s inspiring to see how they can overcome obstacles they face. “These folks are heroes. Professional and dedicated to public safety even in the face of enormous obstacles.”
OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, who is a Corrections officer, says this month’s situation in Kenora is all too familiar to him.
“Working in the Hamilton facility, I saw the terrible toll that drugs took on inmates, as well as the compassionate response of staff,” said. “We’re known for keeping our communities safe, but we actually spend much of our time keeping inmates safe from other inmates and, as in this case, themselves.”
Thomas hopes the incident in Kenora will be a reminder to the provincial government that more needs to be done to help front-line staff cope with such problems.
“Our members need more training and resources in dealing with inmates with mental health and addiction issues. Incredibly, they still haven’t got them. This is hazardous for inmates and staff alike.”
At the Thunder Bay District Jail, a corrections officer is facing charges for trafficking drugs to inmates at the aging facility. Thunder Bay Police investigators were looking at how contraband drugs were making it into the Thunder Bay District Jail.
As a result of their investigation, on June 24, 2020, Andy Jason SAINDON, a corrections officer working at the Thunder Bay facility was arrested. SAINDON now faces charges of:
• Breach of Trust
• Possession of Property Obtained by Crime Over $5,000
• Trafficking in Tobacco Products
• Possession of Cannabis for the Purpose of Selling
• Possession of Cocaine for the Purpose of Trafficking
• Possession of MDMA for the Purpose of Trafficking
While the charges have not been proven in court, the matter of how drugs do get into the facilities is one that needs to be addressed as well as the conditions in these facilities.
SOURCES include Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU); Thunder Bay Police Service; NNL NewsHawks.