Marijuana legalization has Quebec jail guard union worried about inmate violence

Quebec’s jail guard union says that violence behind bars could increase with the upcoming legalization of marijuana.

Drones being used to drop packages of contraband items to inmates

Prison guards in Quebec are worried that legalizing marijuana could create safety issues. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Quebec's jail guard union is worried violence behind bars could increase with the upcoming legalization of marijuana.

Safety has become a concern for the union, called the Syndicat des agents de la paix en services correctionnels du Québec, which has members in the province's 18 correctional facilities. 

According to union president Mathieu Lavoie, any contraband leads to violence — and marijuana could join the list of items which includes tobacco, medications and cell phones.

He said that every day drones are delivering illegal packages to inmates.

"When we talk about banned substances, we could talk about tobacco which sells for three times the price as outside," said Lavoie.

A former inmate who spent 17 years behind bars, Daniel Benson, now works in social reintegration and agrees that contraband can lead to violence.

He's not sure if marijuana legalization will increase how much of the drug gets to inmates, but thinks guards should have more resources to diminish any conflicts which may arise.

Union president Mathieu Lavoie hopes more resources will be in place at correctional facilities to handle the legalization of marijuana, because guards are worried about increased violence. (Radio-Canada)

"Violence in prison is often linked to debts, whether that's drugs or gambling," Benson said.

Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu is a member of the legal committee for the legalization of pot.

He thinks smoking weed in prison could be used as a reward for good behaviour.

"If we can just make smoking a privilege and ask people, 'You want to smoke? You have to make some effort in your rehabilitation process,'" Boisvenu said.

Either way, the union hopes to have more resources in place to handle the legalization of marijuana which is set for July 2018.

with files from Radio-Canada's Pascal Robidas