Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre: Dead inmate’s sister demands province install body scanner, add cameras at troubled London lockup

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The family of a man who died of a drug overdose at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre is questioning why Ontario has taken so long to install a body scanner at the problem-plagued London provincial jail.

Paramedics called to the Exeter Road lockup last Thursday found an inmate dead inside his cell.

The man was 24-year-old Murray Davis, The Free Press has confirmed. Davis had begun serving a sentence for criminal harassment on March 14.

The death of Davis — the third inmate to die at the jail this summer — prompted renewed calls from politicians for an inquiry into EMDC and the immediate installation of a body scanner.

Davis’s younger sister confirmed officials told the family her brother died of an overdose, saying unidentified drug packages were found inside his cell.

But she questioned how the drugs ended up inside the south-end London jail, where the province has long promised to install a body scanner capable of detecting ­contraband hidden in body cavities.

“I have watched my mom and dad break down more times than I have ever seen in my entire life and that is adding to my pain in more ways imaginable,” Michelle Davis wrote in a message to The Free Press Monday.

Court records show Davis had faced dozens of criminal charges over the years, ranging from arson and assault with a weapon to robbery and carrying a concealed weapon. Most of the charges were laid in London, but some stemmed from incidents in Goderich.

A muscular man with short-cropped hair, Davis had a tattoo across his chest with the words, “God forgives, I don’t.”

“He was a great brother. I didn’t care that he was in and out of jail,” Michelle Davis said, adding the provincial government failed to keep her brother safe at EMDC, where 10 inmates have died in the last eight years.

The grieving sibling called on the province to outfit the complex with a body scanner and add more security cameras, measures she said could prevent other families from going through the pain that Davis’s relatives are feeling.

The province promised in spring 2016 that EMDC would be one of the first facilities in the province to get a body scanner. But it turned out that pledge applied only to the jail’s regional intermittent centre, which houses mostly offenders serving weekend sentences.

Facing mounting concerns from correctional officers and an inmate overdose in October 2016, the province said it would speed up installation of a scanner at EMDC.

Corrections Minister Marie-France Lalonde said last week that plans for the new scanner are on track for the fall and staff training has begun.

Though it remains unknown what drug led to Davis’ death, the powerful painkiller fentanyl — a street drug responsible for growing numbers of deaths as it sweeps across Canada — has become a widespread problem at the jail.

An opioid up to 100 times more powerful than morphine, fentanyl is difficult to detect because it often comes in powder form, say jail insiders, who question whether a scanner will be enough to stamp out the problem.

A growing chorus of voices, including the London region’s top health official, has called on the province to equip correctional officers with naloxone, a drug that can stop an opioid overdose. Only nurses can administer the anti-overdose drug now at EMDC.

Jailhouse deaths often result in coroner’s inquests, investigations that probe the manner and cause of an person’s death. Juries in such inquests give recommendations, but don’t assign blame.

A spokesperson for Ontario’s chief coroner said Davis’s death is under investigation, but a decision on whether to hold an inquest hasn’t been made.



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