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Kenora Jail staff save inmate lives

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Kenora – OPSEU is praising the heroic actions of correctional staff at the Kenora Jail that saved the lives of five inmates who had overdosed on fentanyl over a 24-hour period.

Three overdoses were reported just after 9 p.m. on July 20. Officers and two nurses rushed to provide first aid. Since the only available ambulance would have taken an hour to reach the jail, officers drove the inmates to hospital in secure vans.

In the absence of 24-hour nursing, nurses stayed on all night at the jail. This was fortunate for two inmates who overdosed early the next day. Once again, officers and nurses saved their lives. Because of chronic short-staffing at the jail, no officers could be spared to escort the inmates to hospital, so the facility’s superintendent jumped in to help, along with an OPP superintendent.

Last month, staff at the Kenora facility moved swiftly to limit any spread of COVID-19 when two asymptomatic cases were detected. OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says it’s an example of how vigilant OPSEU’s members in Corrections are.

“We saw last month’s clear-headed reaction to COVID-19,” said Thomas. “Now we see another example of corrections staff showing calm, dedication and ingenuity to prevent a tragedy from occurring.  This kind of professionalism happens day in and day out across Ontario.”

Chris Jackel, chair of the division that represents OPSEU Corrections workers, said it’s inspiring to see how they can overcome obstacles they face. “These folks are heroes. Professional and dedicated to public safety even in the face of enormous obstacles.”

OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, who is a Corrections officer, says this month’s situation in Kenora is all too familiar to him.

“Working in the Hamilton facility, I saw the terrible toll that drugs took on inmates, as well as the compassionate response of staff,” said Almeida. “We’re known for keeping our communities safe, but we actually spend much of our time keeping inmates safe from other inmates and, as in this case, themselves.”

Thomas hopes the incident in Kenora will be a reminder to the provincial government that more needs to be done to help front-line staff cope with such problems.

“Our members need more training and resources in dealing with inmates with mental health and addictions issues. Incredibly, they still haven’t got them. This is hazardous for inmates and staff alike.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931