After inmate death, union calls for resources to keep drugs out of Sask. jails

An inmate death at the Saskatoon Provincial Correctional Centre was likely a drug overdose, says a government official.

Call comes following apparent fatal overdose Wednesday at the Saskatoon Provincial Correctional Centre

An inmate has died at the Saskatoon Provincial Correctional Centre. (CBC)

More guards, more training and better equipment are needed to keep drugs out of Saskatchewan jails, the union representing staff said after the recent death of an inmate on remand.

"Staff are asking for the tools," Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union President Bob Bymoen said after extending condolences to the deceased inmate's family.

The inmate's death, which happened at the Saskatoon Provincial Correctional Centre Wednesday, was likely the result of a drug overdose, Ministry of Corrections and Policing spokesperson Drew Wilby said.

The dead man's name was not released. He was on remand awaiting trial and had been there roughly one and a half months, Wilby said.

He was found unresponsive in his bunk and was pronounced dead at approximately 1:30 p.m. CST Wednesday. His next of kin have been notified, said the statement.

The police are investigating this matter and the ministry will conduct an internal investigation. The death is also being reviewed by the Saskatchewan Coroner's Service.

Wilby said there were a couple of non-fatal overdoses in the remand unit earlier this week. He said drug smuggling is becoming a growing problem in the jails.

Drugs sometimes get in by someone from outside simply throwing a package over the fence. Another common method is "suitcasing," where someone coming into custody hides drugs in their rectum, Wilby said.

Wilby said Wednesday's death will be investigated, but they'll also look for any ways to improve safety.

He said the government is considering body scanners which could detect contraband. This could limit the need for invasive body cavity searches, which can be especially traumatic for inmates who may have suffered sexual abuse.

Bymoen said there simply aren't enough resources dedicated to the problem. He said staff are overwhelmed by the drug problem and by the almost constant overcrowding which exacerbates the already tense environment.

He said staff shortages mean they can't take vacation when they need it. He noted correctional officers have among the highest rates of post-traumatic stress disorder of any profession.

"Sometimes, you just need to get away from it for a day or two," he said.

He said the family of the inmate must be suffering and so are the guards who found him and tried to revive him.

"These are real people," Bymoen said.

About the Author

Jason Warick

Reporter

Jason Warick is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.