One day after International Overdose Awareness Day was marked around the globe, including here in Kingston, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has confirmed that multiple cases of drug overdoses among inmates have occurred in recent months.
In response to inquiries from Kingstonist earlier this week about multiple medical incidents involving overdoses at Collins Bay Institution, CSC responded on the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 1, 2023, confirming a spike of overdoses had occurred. Kingstonist requested information on the number of drug overdoses at the multi-level federal institution, as well as the suspected substances being used which led to the medical emergencies.
“The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has data which is readily available regarding incidents classified as ‘suspected overdose interrupted’ and ‘overdose interrupted’ at Collins Bay Institution (CBI) which covers the period from April 1, 2023, to present,” CSC said in a statement.
In a follow-up inquiry, Michael Shrider, Regional Communications Manager for CSC, explained that “readily available” refers to the federal agency’s ability to access the information regarding drug overdoses at Collins Bay Institution, and not to that information being publicly accessible.
According to information from CSC, there have been sixteen instances of drug overdose or suspected drug overdose at Collins Bay Institution over the past five months. Specifically, eight of those were “suspected overdose” cases that were interrupted by CSC staff, and the other eight were confirmed overdose cases interrupted by prison staff.
“Thanks to the professionalism, vigilance, and prompt response from staff at the site during these incidents, there have been no deaths resulting from overdoses at CBI during this time period,” the federal correctional agency said.
“While we cannot definitively state which drugs are involved, the news releases that we have shared recently would indicate the types of contraband and unauthorized items that we are most commonly finding when retrieving packages at CBI.”
Indeed, there have been an alarming number of packages containing contraband and/or prohibited items seized at Collins Bay Institution in 2023, with a surge of drone drop activity that’s been exposed in recent weeks. Most recently, CSC announced the seizure of packages containing tobacco, cannabis, drug paraphernalia, cellphones, and cellphone accessories. That information came after four people were arrested within a week for attempting to deliver contraband to inmates at Collins Bay Institution via drone drops. Earlier this year, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) announced charges in drug smuggling cases involving CSC employees. The drugs involved in those cases included fentanyl and crystal methamphetamine.
“Canadians across the country have been impacted by the tragic and ongoing opioid crisis, and those living within our federal institutions are no exception. One of the Correctional Service of Canada’s top priorities is ensuring that incarcerated individuals have access to quality, safe, patient-centred health care,” the CSC statement to Kingstonist continued.
“To help save lives and prevent the spread of infectious diseases, over the last number of years, CSC has introduced a number of harm reduction measures to better support those living with problematic substance use. This includes the Opioid Agonist Treatment, the expansion of the Prison Needle Exchange Program, and the establishment of the world’s only prison-based Overdose Prevention Services.”