Edmonton Remand Centre on lockdown after death; staff search for contraband

A file photo of the Edmonton Remand Centre.
A file photo of the Edmonton Remand Centre. Fletcher Kent, Global News

A lockdown put in place Friday at the Edmonton Remand Centre after a number of suspected overdoses as well as a death, the correctional officers’ union said, was lifted Wednesday night.

Staff searched the whole facility for contraband, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) said in a news release.

“We commend the officers who, because of their quick thinking and training, saved a number of lives at the Edmonton Remand Centre over the weekend,” AUPE vice-president James Hart said.

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READ MORE: Inmate dies in cell at Edmonton Remand Centre

On Friday, an inmate at the remand centre was found unresponsive in his cell and was later pronounced dead after he could not be revived.

Alberta Justice said correctional centre staff and Alberta Health Services responded immediately and gave him Narcan and epinephrine “without result.”

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Narcan is the brand name for the drug naloxone, which is used as an antidote for suspected opioid overdoses.

“The cause of death remains unknown and it would be inappropriate to speculate the cause at this time,” an Alberta Justice spokesperson said on Wednesday.

An internal review is underway, as per protocol.

READ MORE: Fentanyl crisis growing in Alberta prisons, exposing guards: ‘It’s very scary’

Alberta Justice said six other inmates were found “in medical distress” at the remand centre on the same day.

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“Correctional centre staff and AHS responded immediately and Narcan was administered to each individual,” the department’s communications director, Jason Maloney, told Global News in an email Wednesday evening. “The inmates were transported to local hospitals for further assessment and treatment. All individuals returned to Edmonton Remand Centre that evening.”

Then, on Sunday, an inmate was found unresponsive in his cell. An emergency code was initiated and once again Narcan was administered and the man taken to hospital. He has since returned to the remand centre, Maloney said.

READ MORE: Woman dies in her cell at the Edmonton Remand Centre

Hart said the union’s occupational health and safety team is making sure staff are properly protected while they conduct these searches of the institution.

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“Correctional peace officers have a tough and often dangerous job that’s full of a number of risks, including exposure to opioids and other drugs.

“Those risks are increasing as the opioid crisis is injected into our correctional institutions at a concerning rate,” Hart said. “The question of how these substances enter correctional facilities is one AUPE also has.

“The increased levels of these drugs in our institutions is putting staff, inmates and others at risk of accidental exposure every day.”

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Alberta Justice said the safety of staff, inmates and visitors “is paramount.”

Last year, a new body scanner was introduced at the Edmonton Remand Centre as part of a one-year pilot project. Staff used the body scanner to conduct 21,025 body scans from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2018. Of those scans, 1,235 were deemed positive or suspicious for contraband.

READ MORE: Staff at Edmonton Remand Centre respond to 3rd suspected drug OD in less than 2 weeks

Maloney confirmed a lockdown/restricted movement order was issued at the Edmonton Remand Centre “to facilitate a centre-wide search of the facility for contraband including dangerous substances.”

The lockdown was lifted Wednesday at 7 p.m. when the search was done.

“No illicit substances were found,” Maloney told Global News on Thursday.

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