Prison of­fi­cials hope for body scan­ners in fight against opi­oids

The Drumheller Mail - - FRONT PAGE - Kyle Smylie

New leg­is­la­tion put for­ward in Ot­tawa would pave the way for body scan­ners to be used in fed­eral pen­i­ten­tiaries, some­thing the lo­cal union pres­i­dent says is “an ab­so­lute need” to keep the flow of drugs out of the Drumheller In­sti­tu­tion.

Bill C-83 would al­low the use of body scan­ners to be used on in­mates, visi­tors, and staff at in­sti­tu­tions, which would change ex­ist­ing leg­is­la­tion which says x-ray scans can only be con­ducted with the in­di­vid­ual’s con­sent. Body scan­ners have been in­stalled in pro­vin­cial cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing the Ed­mon­ton Re­mand Cen­tre re­cently, but are not used by Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices Canada. A CSC me­dia rep told the Mail the new leg­is­la­tion will “al­low the use of emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies to en­hance search ca­pa­bil­i­ties while also pro­vid­ing less in­va­sive al­ter­na­tives to in­tru­sive phys­i­cal body searches.”

The leg­is­la­tion comes as the Drumheller In­sti­tu­tion, along with fa­cil­i­ties across the coun­try, grap­ple with the flow of opi­oids through prison walls and the over­doses which fol­low. The Drumheller In­sti­tu­tion recorded 19 sus­pected or con­firmed over­doses in 2016-2017 and 14 for 2017-2018, up from just six con­firmed or sus­pected over­doses recorded in 20152016. The Mail re­ported in Oc­to­ber that 40 grams of car­fen­tanyl, an opi­ate re­port­edly up to 100 times more pow­er­ful than fen­tanyl, was seized by prison of­fi­cials in the month of Septem­ber, which was said to be “enough to kill a city.”

CSC says they are work­ing to cre­ate a drug-free en­vi­ron­ment by im­ple­ment­ing a drug strat­egy of “pre­ven­tion, in­ter­ven­tion/treat­ment, and en­force­ment as­pects” which aims to re­duce the sup­ply of drugs, in­crease aware­ness of the neg­a­tive con­se­quences of il­licit drug use, and re­duce the de­mand for il­licit drugs.

“De­tect­ing drugs and con­tra­band is an on­go­ing and chal­leng­ing task. CSC re­lies on staff pro­fes­sion­al­ism and at­ten­tive­ness, in com­bi­na­tion with de­tec­tion equip­ment and a va­ri­ety of ap­proved tech­niques to pre­vent the en­try of drugs and con­tra­band,” a CSC me­dia re­la­tions ad­vi­sor said in an email. “These in­clude searches of of­fend­ers, visi­tors, build­ings and cells us- ing non-in­tru­sive search tools in­clud­ing ion scan­ners and de­tec­tor dogs.”

But cor­rec­tional of­fi­cer union pres­i­dent for the prairie re­gion James Bloom­field says the ex­ist­ing mea­sures are not enough, as ev­i­denced by the num­ber of sus­pected over­doses and drug seizures recorded at fed­eral in­sti­tu­tions. He says body scan­ners are an ab­so­lute need for in­sti­tu­tions now.

“It is ab­so­lutely one of the best tools I’ve seen in 20 years, I’ve never seen any­thing as ef­fec­tive as this is for the de­tec­tion of nar­cotics,” Bloom­field said, adding the union has been lob­by­ing mem­bers of par­lia­ment and Canada’s pub­lic safety min­is­ter Ralph Goodale, who they met with last week, for the changes hoped to come with Bill C-83.

“The laws of the fed­eral sys­tem have held us back. With this new gov­ern­ment, we asked as soon as we saw them but they've been drag­ging their heels.”

But the new bill brings con­cerns from prison staff over changes to how in­mates are seg­re­gated. The bill would bring an end to “ad­min­is­tra­tive seg­re­ga­tion,” which is the abil­ity for staff to sep­a­rate in­mates to pre­vent as­so­ci­a­tion with oth­ers. Seg­re­ga­tion would in­stead be re­placed with “struc­tured in­ter­ven­tion units,” which would be new en­vi­ron­ments to of­fer in­mates with in­ter­ven­tion strate­gies and

pro­gram­ming to ad­dress their risks and needs in or­der to fa­cil­i­tate their rein­te­gra­tion into the main­stream in­mate pop­u­la­tion.

“There’s a whole lot of prob­lems with that one,” Bloom­field says. “Es­sen­tially we are go­ing to be tar­gets with no abil­ity for us to house an in­mate in an area sep­a­rate from the rest of the in­sti­tu­tion… if an of­fi­cer gets punched in the face, the in­mate stays where he is un­der law.”

He says the union is lob­by­ing against this por­tion of the bill as “it's go­ing to cre­ate a se­ri­ous is­sue for of­fi­cers and in­crease the risk we face ev­ery­day.”

Sec­ond read­ing of the bill was held in late Oc­to­ber, where it was then re­ferred to the stand­ing com­mit­tee on pub­lic safety for re­view.


The body scan­ner at the Ed­mon­ton Re­mand Cen­tre.

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