The President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), Warren (Smokey) Thomas, is hailing correctional officers at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC) for their swift response on finding seven inmates who had simultaneously overdosed on August 9.
“At this point, it looks like all seven inmates will pull through,” noted Thomas. “But it might have been a very different story, had correctional staff not taken quick and effective action to save their lives.
“From what I understand, when officers came upon the inmates, they realized quickly what had happened – and knew precisely what to do to save the inmates’ lives. Emergency services were called and medication was used to reverse the effects of the drugs that caused the overdose.”
“If these officers hadn’t been as vigilant as they were, and if they hadn’t acted as quickly as they did, emergency services might have taken seven bodies to hospital instead of seven survivors,” Thomas said.
OPSEU’s President noted that, in some ways, Elgin-Middlesex was ground zero for the crisis in corrections.
“It’s chronically overcrowded and understaffed, which contributes to rampant inmate-on-inmate violence,” Thomas said.
“It has a reputation as being one of the most dangerous detention centres to work at in the province.”
But Thomas noted that day-in and day-out, dedicated and courageous correctional workers go inside to help keep our communities safe – knowing they may never see their families again.
“Seeing seven inmates in distress would make an unforgettable impact on anyone,” said Thomas. “But just imagine seeing inmates and colleagues brutalized. Imagine coming upon an inmate who has died by hanging. This is the reality that our correctional officers face, and it’s one reason they suffer twice the rate of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) of other first responders.
“The previous government made a lot of noises about bringing transformation to Ontario corrections, but they essentially sat on their hands. In opposition, the Progressive Conservatives pushed for the health and safety of correctional workers and for meaningful solutions to the crisis in corrections.
“It’s my hope they will immediately begin consulting with OPSEU and our frontline workers to identify and follow through with the most effective means to finally end this crisis. These overdoses should serve as a painful reminder that this is a matter of life and death – and it’s not going away.”