Inmate charged with manslaughter after jail overdose death

An inmate at Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton has been charged with manslaughter after another inmate overdosed and died behind bars earlier this year.

The charge stems from an incident in May, when when six inmates overdosed inside the complex, Halton police said in a news release.

Five of the six were rushed to hospital where they later recovered, police said. The sixth man did not survive, and his death was later determined to have been caused by a combination of the powerful opioids fentanyl and carfentanil.

Police said in the news release that after a "lengthy investigation" involving homicide detectives, the coroner and the Centre of Forensic Sciences, a male inmate at Maplehurst was arrested and charged for his role in the death.

A 30-year-old Cambridge man is now facing charges of manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death, and trafficking of a schedule one substance.

Halton police said in the news release that investigators would not provide any additional details about the case, including the name of the deceased.

As the death was not the result of natural causes, a mandatory inquest will be called once any outstanding investigations have finished.

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Ministry of the Solicitor General spokesperson Brent Ross said the ministry has policies and procedures in place to prevent contraband — like illicit drugs — from ending up in correctional facilities.

"Staff are trained to be vigilant which includes frequent and thorough searches of any suspected contraband," he said in an email. 

"The ministry has installed full-body scanners at the Maplehurst Correctional Centre. Full-body security scanning systems can safely scan bodies for external and internal contraband not detected by existing security measures."

Overdoses have been an increasing problem in Ontario jails in recent years. There have been 15 deaths in the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre in London in the last decade, alongside a string of overdoses and deaths at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre.

Things have gotten so dire that the Correctional Service of Canada said back in March that it is examining setting up overdose prevention sites inside its institutions.

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers said last month that one such injection site at Drumheller Institution in Alberta is proving a safer alternative to the service's needle-exchange program, which is operating at seven federal prisons.

Overdose deaths inside the province's jails and prisons have mirrored a trend in the general public.

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Preliminary data from the City of Toronto shows there were 326 opioid toxicity deaths among the city's residents over a one-year period from April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019.

The city says there were 300 opioid toxicity deaths in Toronto in 2018 — about the same number as 2017, but 61 per cent higher than 2016 and 119 per cent higher than 2015.

One in five of all opioid overdose deaths in Ontario last year happened in Toronto, the city says.

adam.carter@cbc.ca