In Canada, it seems there’s a new game in town – the Canadian prison system’s peculiar take on ‘playtime.’ Although drugs are still a no-no behind bars, our dear Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has ushered in a strange era where inmates are not only sneaking in narcotics but also getting official help to consume them. Yes, you heard it right. Welcome to Canada, where we’ve turned our correctional facilities into a dystopian drug haven.
Safe Spaces for Smuggled Highs
Kingston’s Collins Bay Institution is about to make history by opening what they call an “overdose prevention service” (OPS). It’s essentially a place where inmates can enjoy their smuggled narcotics under the watchful eye of medical staff. The rationale? “Mental health and problematic substance use are first-and-foremost a health issue,” says the Correctional Service of Canada. It seems they’ve swapped the rulebook for a prescription pad.
This isn’t the first time the federal prison agency has embraced this curious approach. The trend began in June 2019 at Alberta’s Drumheller Institution, where 52 inmates took advantage of this ‘unique’ service, racking up 1,566 visits in total. Nova Scotia’s Springhill Institution joined the party earlier this year. They offer needles, syringes, and more, ensuring inmates have all the ‘essentials’ for a safe and sanitary high.
While Canadian prisons have been on a losing streak against the black market that smuggles drugs, cell phones, and even weapons, this new OPS move feels like the last straw. In 2022, there were 99 “drone drops” recorded at Collins Bay alone. Drones, the latest delivery service for inmates with a penchant for contraband, were used to ferry goodies over prison walls.
Drugs on Demand
Inside, it’s a booming business. The demand for drugs is so high that even prison guards are getting in on the action, marking up prices and making millions. Meth, fentanyl, and ceramic knives have all made their way behind bars. One former inmate revealed, “The demand for drugs and other contraband — mainly drugs — is off the charts. Take fentanyl … everyone wants it.”
In June – the same month that Springhill Institution opened its safe consumption site – prison guards seized a package containing an estimated $450,000 worth of crystal meth.
Even banned tobacco is a hot commodity. A single drone drop of tobacco intercepted at Collins Bay in 2021 was estimated to have a black-market value of $20,000. And you thought cigarette prices were high outside of prison!
All this smuggling comes at a price, and it’s a steep one. Over the last decade, roughly 46 suspected overdose deaths have occurred within prison walls. It’s now the second-leading cause of non-natural death in prison, losing out only to suicide.
Zinger’s War on the ‘War on Drugs’
Canada’s official correctional investigator, Ivan Zinger, has been a vocal advocate for facilities offering clean paraphernalia and medical supervision to inmates indulging in smuggled drugs. He’s called it a “human rights issue,” and in his 2022 annual report, Zinger criticised Canada’s prisons for their heavy-handed approach to drug suppression. He urged them to abandon their so-called “war on drugs.”
In a country known for its politeness and love of beavers, it seems they’ve ventured into a rather perplexing realm. Their inmates are getting high, their prisons are playing host to a thriving black market, and all the while, we’re left shaking our heads, wondering if common sense has taken a permanent vacation. Trudeau’s Canada – where even behind bars, we’re not sure who’s in control.