Opioid crisis: 37 overdoses at Donnacona penitentiary over 3-month period

Correctional officers at the federal penitentiary of Donnacona are asking for additional resources to deal with a marked increase in the number of fentanyl and carfentanyl overdoses.

Correctional officers sound alarm over increase, use of drones delivering potentially lethal drugs

Thirty-seven cases of overdoses were reported at the federal penitentiary of Donnacona, between September and December 2018. (Jean-François Nadeau/Radio-Canada)

Correctional officers at the Donnacona Institution, a federal penitentiary 30 kilometres west of Quebec City, are raising the alarm after witnessing a wave of fentanyl and carfentanyl overdoses.

Thirty-seven inmates overdosed between September and December 2018 according to the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, which is asking for more resources to deal with the "unprecedented" situation.

That number is up from 10 cases recorded between July 2017 and March 2018.

Frédérick Lebeau, the president of the Quebec chapter of the union, said the the opioid crisis affecting Canada is also playing out within the walls of federal prisons.

Inmates often ingest the drug, derived from morphine, in the minutes preceding scheduled security rounds.

Frédérick Lebeau, the president of the Quebec chapter of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, says inmates inject their opioid doses before security rounds in case they overdose. (Radio-Canada)

"The inmates know that if they overdose while officers are patrolling, someone will find them and will be able to resuscitate them," said Lebeau.

While most overdoses are linked to fentanyl, there have also been cases of carfentanyl, estimated to be 100 times more potent. 

Drone deliveries

The union is also concerned about the drones that are being used to deliver the drugs by dropping them inside courtyards, and even onto inmates' windowsills. 

Lebeau said there are not enough security measures to detect drones, which can also be used to smuggle contraband and dangerous objects.

"There is a real safety threat to our members," said Lebeau.

Correctional Service of Canada will be launching a pilot-project to "evaluate various technologies designed to prevent and detect the entry of any material in institutions using drones." The implementation is expected to roll out in 2021.

With files from Radio-Canada