CSC responds to increased contraband seizures at Kingston area institutions

Photo by Kelen Loewen.

After publishing multiple articles regarding seizures of contraband and unauthorized items at local federal institutions since the beginning of 2024 — most due to suspected drone drops — Kingstonist reached out the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) about the issue.

So far this year, there have been 11 seizures of packages at Joyceville Institution and six at Collins Bay Institution, most of which are believed to have ended up on the properties of the institutions by way of “suspected drone drops,” according to the CSC.

In one instance, Kingston Police were able to apprehend four individuals involved in an attempt to get three more packages of contraband onto the Joyceville property.

When asked about the apparent increase in seizures of contraband and unauthorized items in the Kingston area, the CSC confirmed.

“CSC has noted an increase in successful seizures of drone packages, thanks to the diligent work of our staff,” the organization stated in reply.

“Preventing and reducing the number of contraband items and illicit drugs in Correctional Service Canada’s (CSC) institutions remains an ongoing priority. CSC continues to use detection methods to target various methods that criminals use to introduce contraband into our institutions.”

According to the CSC, the introduction of contraband has been an “ongoing issue” and, as Kingstonist has been reporting, news releases are “routinely made public following significant seizures.”

As stated in those media releases, the CSC shared that it has a number of tools and strategies available that are used to prevent the flow of drugs into its institutions. These include intelligence investigations as well as searches of offenders, visitors, buildings, and cells using non-intrusive search tools.

Asked specifically about whether the location and/or security level of an institution correlates with an increase in contraband and/or unauthorized items making their way onto the federal properties, the CSC explained why they would not share that information. With continued advances in technology, and the ready availability of items such as drones, CSC told Kingstonist that, while they may see patterns in these instances, they will not share specific details for safety reasons.

“There are institutions that appear to experience more drone incidents than others. However, sharing specific information and statistical data about suspected drone drops could create security vulnerabilities for our institutions, institutional staff and offenders, while also encouraging criminal networks to make further attempts to introduce contraband,” CSC said.

“The term ‘suspected drone drop’ refers to seizures that are believed to have been introduced onto institutional property by a drone; however, a drone may not have been specifically observed dropping the seized package,” CSC clarified.

In some cases, seizures of contraband and unauthorized items are credited to “exceptional searches” of the properties. Kingstonist asked for clarification of this term.

“The Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) and Commissioner’s Directive 566-7 (Search of Offenders) inform CSC’s search and seizure authorities,” the federal authority explained. 

“Per section 53 of the CCRA, an exceptional search may be conducted when there are grounds to believe inmate(s) are in possession of contraband and the contraband is believed to present a safety risk to any person or a security risk to the institution.”

When asked if the CSC is working on new or better ways to minimize contraband (or drones) entering institutional properties, the organization said that it is always working toward better detection and safety for everyone at its institutions.

“Protecting the safety and security of our institutions is a top priority for CSC. Contraband is forbidden in our institutions, and offenders found to be in possession of such items, including illicit substances, can be subjected to disciplinary action, including new criminal charges,” the organization emphasized.

“CSC is aware of the evolving threat posed by drones and continues to respond to this threat with a layered approach which includes the use of dynamic security practices, adoption of new technologies, intelligence activities and infrastructure enhancements. We are continually testing/exploring new technologies to detect drone activity; however, due to security reasons we are unable to release details.”

The federal agency also stated that it continues to provide support and treatment for individuals in custody who use substances.

“With this approach, along with the ability and professionalism of our frontline officers, we are confident that contraband will continue to be better identified and seized. We are committed to taking further action to protect the safety of our institutions.”

Kingstonist readers may recall that Collins Bay Institution became one of only three prisons in Canada — and the first in Ontario — to introduce an overdose prevention site, which Kingstonist toured as part of a CSC media event of in February of this year.

According to Kingstonist files, in total, the CSC has reported 17 seizures of contraband and/or unauthorized items at Kingston area prisons thus far in 2024 (two and half months). In 2023, the total number of such seizures reported by the CSC was 15 for the calendar year.

In 2023, there was also a reported increase in overdoses at Collins Bay Institution, a reported drug smuggling case involving Collins Bay Institution and CSC employees, and the reported arrest after a Kingston Police investigation into drug trafficking within a federal institution; that case involved an inmate directing people to transport fentanyl from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) to Kingston. In August 2023, the CSC issued a statement on drone activity at Collins Bay Institution following two arrests in relation to drone activity outside that prison.

With files from Tori Stafford.

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