OPSEU applauds Ontario government for installing fentanyl-detecting scanners at 10 jails

“Plain and simple, this is an investment that will save lives. I’m grateful the members of my union kept urging government to provide these scanners, and I’m pleased to see the government take action.” — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President

Toronto (10 Feb. 2021) — Front-line correctional workers and inmates at 10 jails across the province will be safer now that the government has answered the calls of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) for ion scanners that can detect dangerous substances like fentanyl.

Investment will save lives

“Plain and simple, this is an investment that will save lives,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President . “I’m grateful the members of my union kept urging government to provide these scanners, and I’m pleased to see the government take action.”

The new scanners are capable of detecting a variety of contraband drugs, including the potent and dangerous fentanyl, that can cause serious harm in even incredibly small exposures.

In 2019, for example, 3 inmates and 3 correctional officers at the Sarnia Jail had to be rushed to hospital after fentanyl exposure.

Opioid crisis predates pandemic, but no relief during pandemic

“We’ve all been so focused on the COVID-19 pandemic that it’s easy to forget that the opioid crisis has dropped out of the headlines,” said Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer, who is himself a correctional officer. “But our members on the front-lines are painfully aware that opioids like fentanyl are still out there causing incredible harm.”

Chris Jackel, the Chair of OPSEU’s Corrections Division, says this is the latest in a serious of positive steps that the government has been taking, that included commitments to hire new correctional workers, build new jails, and increase investments in training and mental health.

“OPSEU/NUPGE members have been raising this concern for a while,” said Jackel. “We’ll never stop speaking up for the safety of workers, inmates, and the entire community, and it's encouraging that we have a high level of collaboration with this government, and, that they are supporting us. We know this government is listening.” 

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE