Combating drugs inside Saskatchewan’s correctional centres

The war against drugs isn’t just on the streets, officials said it’s a 24-7 battle inside Saskatchewan correctional facilities.

On Wednesday, an inmate was pronounced dead at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre after all life-saving measures performed by staff were unsuccessful.


Regina jail set to get body scanner as part of contraband reduction strategy

His family was notified and an investigation into the inmate’s death has been launched, but there is reason to suspect it may have been a fatal overdose.

“We have had some challenges in Saskatoon this week with the use of drugs,” said Drew Wilby, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice.

“We had three overdoses on Sunday evening due to drugs in an area where this individual was so we have reason to believe that that’s likely what caused this death.”

The demand for drugs on the inside of these facilities pose a huge risk for both inmates and staff.

Authorities say they try to stay one step ahead of things through intelligence and by working with various police agencies but there’s a variety of methods and mechanism inmates used to sneak in contraband.

Drugs inside someone’s body.

“We’ve talked about some of that before in terms of ‘suitcasing’ or inserting a kinder-style egg up into their rectum and bringing those drugs into the facility, unfortunately those are the means they’ll go to – to try to bring them in,” Wilby said.

There’s also ‘throw-overs’ in which drugs are chucked over the top of barbed wire fence lines then a inmate inserts it into their body for later.

“I’ve represented several accused that shared with me anecdotally that it’s easier to get good quality drugs in a correctional facility than it is on the street sometimes,” said Chris Lavier, a criminal defence lawyer in Saskatoon.

According to Lavier, meth is predominately the drug of choice in facilities – which is sold exorbitant amount compared the price on the streets.

There is also pressure being put on individuals who serve intermittent sentences to bring drugs in – i.e. someone serving 90 days or less who would serve time only on the weekends but is allowed to work during the week.

As for what happens when someone is suspected of having drugs inside them while in custody, the Ministry of Justice said the person is put in a dry cell to expel them out or taken to the hospital but cavity searches aren’t permitted.

“Often times the inmates that are coming in are victims of sexual assault or something and this would be a trigger towards that,” Wilby explained.

Plus, it’s against the law for correctional officers to perform them.

“It would infringe on their bodily sanctity and it would be breach the charter rights,” Lavier said.

“The state can absolutely not do this without the consent of the accused.”

It’s estimated that at any given time 70 to 85 per cent of inmates in custody have substance abuse issues.

By next spring, provincial institutions will have a new tool on their side in combating drugs – a body scanner will be demostrated at the Regina Correctional Centre and if successful the device will be deployed to other institutions.

An image of a body scanner in use.

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