As the country grapples with the opioid crisis, an Alberta man is speaking out after his son overdosed on fentanyl while in segregation at the Drumheller Institution.
“He wasn’t safe there. That’s what really bothers me. A lot of people’s children aren’t safe there,” Derek Osterland told Global News.
“I thought the jail was designed to help you become better people and safe. But it’s not.”
Cody Osterland had a difficult childhood and began abusing alcohol and drugs at a young age. At 21, he ended up at the Drumheller Institution for drugs and weapons offences.
“He was working to be a better person. Not that I don’t think he was a good person. He just made some bad choices,” Derek said. “He went back to school. He was cooking in the kitchen. He loved to cook. Even all the reports showed very positive things that he was doing.”
A Board of Investigation (BOI) report obtained by Global News showed Cody had been in segregation for 49 days before his death. The report said he was “considered a non-problematic inmate who was friendly and cooperative with staff” in the segregation unit.
Cody was found dead at around 7 a.m. on Sept. 21, 2016, after it was noted he didn’t take his breakfast tray from the food slot. The report said Cody “had died approximately two to four hours earlier” and that rigor mortis was evident.
“It was several hours where he was totally alone and he shouldn’t have been,” Derek said.
The report stops short of explaining how Cody obtained the drugs, but said video recordings show him passing sheets of paper between another inmate and the segregation inmate cleaner.
“These people that are in there, they’re just people. And they have problems. They have addictions. They’re going to try to do anything that they can to get drugs.”
“If they’re not safe in jail period then why are we putting them in there?”
“I want to see something change in the system to prevent this from happening to anybody else,” Derek said. “I don’t want my son’s life to be forgotten about.”
The BOI report said “evidence suggested that (Cody) Osterland had snorted fentanyl and likely was the cause of death.” Derek said the medical examiner’s officer contacted him a couple weeks ago to confirm his son died of accidental fentanyl poisoning.
“You have to ask yourself: how? And that’s one of the biggest questions. How was he able to get this stuff? Was it given to him? Or did he ask for it?”
“Segregation is suppose to be the safest place to be.”
The number of overdoses in federal institutions has been on the rise. In Alberta, there were 11 overdoses or suspected overdoses in the 2015-2016 fiscal year. The following year, there were 28.
The Drumheller Institution recorded the highest number, with 18 overdoses or suspected overdoses in 2016-2017.
A statement from Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s office said: “CSC (Correctional Service Canada) has a zero tolerance policy for illegal drugs and uses a variety of tools to prevent them from getting into correctional facilities. While that’s an ongoing and challenging task, it is also important to note that:
· The rate of drug seizures was the highest in the past 10 years,
· The results for urinalysis testing were some of the lowest in the last decade, and
· We are not aware of any cases where an employee has tested positive for fentanyl following a reported exposure.”
A coroner’s inquest into Cody’s death has not yet been scheduled.