News - Press Release
Press Release

Sarnia Jail overdoses a symptom of the crisis in corrections: OPSEU

Publication Date

Wednesday, May 29, 2019 - 10:30am

Sarnia – OPSEU is demanding the government take immediate action to protect corrections workers from coming into contact with the extremely potent opioid Fentanyl.

“Fentanyl abuse has reached alarming proportions in Ontario, but it has barely registered with the Ford government,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Fentanyl’s tentacles have reached into our correctional system, and the government refuses to act. This is an abject failure to take its job of protecting citizens and its employees seriously.”

On May 24, correctional officers at Sarnia Jail came upon three inmates in obvious distress after consuming Fentanyl. While helping the inmates, the officers came into contact with Fentanyl and were themselves rushed to hospital.

“This was an avoidable incident that could have ended in tragedy,” said OPSEU Local 128 Joel Bissonnette. “The problem with Fentanyl has increased astronomically over the last few years in every Ontario jail, but management has chosen to look the other way. This is inexcusable, given that solutions exist.

“Ion scanners, which many people have experienced in airports, would go a long way to stop contraband Fentanyl,” Bissonnette continued. “Officers and nurses also need more training to deal with inmates who’ve overdosed. The scanners aren’t cheap, but what is the price of a human life?”

OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, himself a correctional officer, said opioid use among inmates was another symptom of the crisis in corrections. “The government just doesn’t get it,” he said. “They’re willing to put a price on beer in corner stores – up to $1 billion – but they won’t put proper scanners into jails to save lives. It’s disgraceful.”

According to Thomas, ignoring the Crisis in Corrections is just part of a pattern of abdication of responsibility by the Ford Tories.

“They’re totally out of touch with Ontarians,” said Thomas.  “Doug Ford is pushing expanded and privatized alcohol and cannabis sales and is AWOL on making sure frontline corrections workers have the support they need.

“This is a government in disarray that has completely lost touch with its roots, its moral compass – and the people of this province.”

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