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Keeping drugs out of correctional institutions challenging

June 2019

On 23 January 2017, Glen Kristofferson died of an apparent fentanyl overdose while being held in custody at the Central North Correction Centre in Penetanguishene, Ontario, on charges of assault cause bodily harm.

An inquest into his death began on 17 June in Midland and Kristofferson’s family have their own opinions on who is responsible for his death.

Firstly, my condolences to the family of Glen Kristofferson.  Whatever issues he may have had, he didn’t deserve to die.

That said, their insistence that correctional staff at Central North Corrections Centre, “…failed to keep deadly drugs from entering the facility,” an accusation that hasn’t been tested in court, ignores a reality that a lot of drugs enter the institution through family/friend visits to incarcerated inmates.  Every visitor who enters into a correctional facility is searched through cursory visual inspections of them and their belongings, along with scanner technology that detect weapons, drug residue and other contraband.  However, visitors do have the right not to be subjected unreasonable searches, such as strip or cavity searches.

I used to work as a federal corrections officer and had to perform all of the above.  Sometimes we’d catch people through these searches and sometimes we’d receive information to intercept a visitor prior to their arrival. 

If we do a strip and cavity search on a visitor, either with a warrant or without one in exigent circumstances, we had better make sure our information is correct, especially if it’s a female visitor or an infant because if we get it wrong, we open ourselves to liability and accusations of abuse of authority.  If we get too many wrong, good luck getting a court to sign another warrant.  I’ve seen cavity searches that, pardon the pun, go south, and it even makes you doubt yourself and your intelligence gathering abilities.

In other words, it’s not as easy for correctional staff to intercept drugs coming into the institution as the general public may think.  Compounding this problem is the instances of corrupted staff members secretly bringing drugs into the institution, a problem that is a sad reality too.

Let’s hope this inquiry is able to bring some closure for the family, but let’s not prejudge where the blame belongs.

Source: https://www.simcoe.com/news-story/9391127-coroner-s-inquest-into-prison-death-of-barrie-man-begins-june-17.

The findings of the inquest can be found here:


About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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