Nova Scotia

Corrections Canada's $266K toilet solution pooh-poohed

The Correctional Service of Canada wants to buy five special toilets used to collect drugs and other contraband that inmates store in their body cavities.

‘I’m not aware of any business reasons to invest more in that technology,’ says Howard Sapers

The Drugbuggy Ranger is a special portable toilet that collects drugs and other contraband discharged from inside a person's body. The Correctional Service of Canada has put out a tender for five of these units. (Drugloo UK Ltd.)

A plan by Corrections Canada to spend $266,918 on special toilets to collect drugs and other contraband that inmates store in their body cavities is being pooh-poohed by the country's prison watchdog. 

The Correctional Service of Canada recently issued a tender stating it will buy five Drugbuggy Ranger toilets. The portable stainless steel toilets collect and separate contraband from bodily waste in such a way that a prison worker doesn't have to touch or sort through it.

But Howard Sapers, who reviews prison policies and procedures as Correctional Investigator of Canada, says he's not aware of any uptick in drug smuggling that would warrant the toilet spending.

"I'm not aware of any business reasons to invest more in that technology."

Howard Sapers, the Correctional Investigator of Canada since February 2004, doesn't see a need for new drug collection toilets. (Roy Grogan)

If anything, Sapers said the number of people using contraband drugs in prison seems to have hit a plateau. 

"The Correctional Service of Canada argues that it doesn't have the resources to, for example, spend more on programming or putting more resources into integration services," said Sapers. 

"If they don't have the resources for that part of their mandate, which is the safe and timely return of offenders to the community, then I would be really interested in seeing the business case that results in spending more money on this technology."     

Sapers said the $266,918 would be better spent on programs to help rehabilitate inmates. 

Working to reduce contraband in prisons

Corrections Canada did not address Sapers's criticism when it responded to questions from CBC News. 

It said in an email it is committed to reducing the amount of contraband and drugs getting into correctional institutions, and provide a safe and healthy environment for staff, offenders and members of the public. 

The correctional service also said it does ensure inmates receive "the right program at the right time during their sentence" and that "correctional programs are offered to those who most need them." 

Those programs include courses to help inmates be accountable for their behaviour, change pro-criminal attitudes and learn how to manage problematic behaviour.

Robust chemical toilets

The tender says the five Drugbuggy Ranger toilets will be delivered to Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec. They are made by Drugloo UK Ltd.

"Drugloos are basically chemical toilets, very robust, they're built from stainless steel, with a life expectancy of around 25 years," said John Baker, the company's managing director. 

Drugloo offers a range of toilets, including the Drugloo Covert. This model is meant to be hidden behind a regular toilet and can intercept anything that's flushed. (Drugloo UK Ltd.)

He said anyone suspected of carrying drugs or other contraband inside their bodies only needs to be seated on one of his company's toilets and the call of nature will take care of the rest.

"Everything they pass goes into ... a hermetically sealed agitation unit with a viewing panel. Water and detergent sprays come into the agitation area, basically blow away all the debris," he said.

"So you're left with whatever item you're looking for which is all nice and clean and smells kind of pleasant." 

Drugloos already in prisons and airports

This is one of the big selling points for the correctional service. In its tender, it said the equipment is required so workers can remove the contraband in a safe and sanitary way, without actually coming into physical contact with human waste.

Baker said Drugloo's system keeps correctional workers safe because they aren't exposed to the risk of infection or disease from contaminated waste.

Canada is one of Drugloo's biggest customers, Baker said. Its units are already available in several Canadian prisons and at every major airport. 

The correctional service tender calls for the Drugloo toilets to be delivered no later than March 31.