Two inmates at Yellowknife’s North Slave Correctional Centre have overdosed on “an opioid drug” smuggled into the facility.
Both inmates have since recovered from the incident, which took place earlier in November. One of the inmates required treatment at Stanton Territorial Hospital, while the other was treated on-site at the jail.
“We had an inmate go into medical distress. Our officers promptly responded to it and escorted the person directly to our medical facilities internal to the institution,” said Parker Kennedy, the NWT’s Director of Corrections.
“A quick analysis was done there with our nurse on staff. We immediately transported them to Stanton Territorial Hospital, where the inmate received medical attention and, six hours later, was returned to the correctional facility.”
It isn’t clear which exact drug was involved. Opioids include dangerous substances known to be in circulation in the Northwest Territories, such as Percocet and Fentanyl.
“We’ve done a complete review of our processes,” said Kennedy, who replaced retiring former corrections director Monty Bourke three months ago.
“It’s always an opportunity for us to learn and improve. We’ve put things in place that will better assist us going forward.”
‘No adequate monitoring’
The incident, which occurred on November 12 but came to public attention in a CBC report on Monday, highlights continuing concern over access to contraband in territorial jails.
In March, the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) – a national body which acts as an independent monitor of northern governments – reported at length on contraband in NWT facilities.
“We found that the Department [of Justice] did not adequately monitor whether facility management was controlling contraband,” read the OAG’s report.
“Documentation from the North Slave and Fort Smith correctional facilities indicates that searches of inmates and visitors were not consistently performed as required by the directives, and that contraband was entering or being kept in facilities as a result.
“Our review of randomly selected facility search logs also showed that searches of cells and common areas were not undertaken at the required daily frequency.
“However, we did find that staff members at both facilities were making other efforts to minimize the flow of some forms of contraband. These efforts included monitoring visitors and suspending those visitors who have been involved in bringing contraband into facilities, and monitoring high-risk inmates who have known links to contraband.”
From 2012 to 2014, the OAG noted 251 contraband incidents at the North Slave Correctional Centre.
In response to OAG’s report, the Department of Justice said it would “conduct an analysis of trends related to contraband, including types and ways of entering its facilities” and review all contraband-related directives by the fall of 2015, with a contraband tracking process developed.
“We have implemented those recommendations surrounding contraband following the OAG’s report,” Kennedy told Moose FM on Monday.
“We have put new directives and processes in place, we have identified better ways of trying to detect contraband coming into our facilities, and we have provided additional training to our staff.
“We certainly look at the health and safety of our inmates as a priority. This was a very serious situation. Our officers responded immediately. We took care of those we are entrusted to take care of, and the result was a good result.”
The Department of Justice says it recorded 28 contraband incidents in the 2014-15 fiscal year, down from 108 in 2013-14. A departmental representative told Moose FM that November’s two overdoses are the only two on record, at any territorial jail, in the past five years.
Kennedy added that unspecified “disciplinary provisions” may follow for both inmates.
“We do an internal investigation and we decide on the best approach moving forward, both for the safety and security of the facility and to make sure we address the needs of the inmate,” he said.