Montreal

Quebec prison closes to visitors for two-day drug search in wake of recent overdoses

Correctional officers at Donnacona Institution, a maximum-security prison about 40 kilometres southwest of Quebec City, closed the facility to visitors Friday and Saturday so staff could search for hard drugs.

Donnacona Institution needs better drug-detecting tools, says regional president of the officers' union

Frédéric Lebeau, regional president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, says new tools are needed at the Donnacona Institution to root out drug use among the inmates. (Google Earth)

A maximum-security prison near Quebec City was closed to visitors this weekend as part of an extensive effort to root out hard-drug use among the inmates.

The Donnacona Institution, about 40 kilometres southwest of Quebec City, has seen a wave of overdoses in the last month, especially related to fentanyl and heroin. 

The facility was closed to visitors Friday and Saturday so staff could search for the drugs.

"[The drugs are] often in places that unfortunately we can't search," said Frédéric Lebeau, regional president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers.

"The body cavities are the favourite place where inmates hide their drugs."

Correctional officers carefully combed over the prison, sector by sector, and conducted strip searches of some of the inmates.

The Donnacona Institution is a maximum-security prison about 40 kilometres frmo Quebec City that can hold 451 inmates. (Marc-Antoine Lavoie/Radio-Canada)

Lebeau has called for better drug-detecting tools, such as body scanners and drone detectors, to reduce the number of overdoses, which he says has gone up this month.

"Since the beginning of September, we have seven to nine overdoses,"  said Lebeau, citing particular issues with heroin and fentanyl.

Inmates, he added, are frequently resuscitated by correctional officers at the institution, which was opened in 1986 and has a capacity of 451 prisoners.

"It becomes a stress. It becomes the Sword of Damocles; we never know what we're going to find. Officers feel like they're in danger," he said.​

CBC Montreal didn't immediately hear back from Correctional Service Canada on the situation.

With files from Radio-Canada

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