London News & Search
Another inmate has died at London’s embattled provincial jail, on a weekend when correctional officers say they saved two people from overdoses but couldn’t save the third.
The Ministry of Correctional Services on Tuesday confirmed the death Sunday night of an inmate at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre, but offered no other details.
The man died of an overdose of fentanyl, jail sources say.
Friends and jail sources identified him as Mike Fall, in his 40s.
“He was well loved and his passing will affect a lot of us,” said Penny Drake, who grew up in east London’s east with Fall. “It is a big blow.”
Fentanyl, an opioid painkiller that’s become a notorious street drug behind a wave of deaths across Canada, can be dozens of times more powerful than heroin.
Fall had heart troubles and sometimes struggled with addiction, his friends said.
It’s the second death within two months at EMDC, where correctional officers say they’re struggling to handle inmates’ opioid addictions and mental illnesses.
Raymond George Major, 52, died of suicide June 6 after a harrowing two days of withdrawing from opioids, possibly fentanyl, during a weekend lockdown, sources say.
“There’s no training for the big problem (fentanyl), ” said one correctional officer, who requested anonymity. “We are defeated. More will die.”
Fentanyl has become far too common in the jail, another officer said. “It is dangerous and fast acting,” he said.
Any number of factors at EMDC could have exacerbated the quick deadliness of fentanyl.
One inmate told The Free Press EMDC was in lockdown on the weekend, as it has been frequently of late because of staff shortages.
“During all these lockdowns, people have been resorting to any drugs they can get their hands on,” the inmate said. “People get bored. Sometimes people take it too far.”
Inmates tried to get help, but couldn’t get the attention of officers busy during the staff shortage, he said.
But a correctional officer said the unit where Fall died on Sunday was not in lockdown.
Correctional officers at EMDC make checks only every 30 minutes, unable to see the ranges from their stations due to the physical design of the 40-year-old jail.
And EMDC’s main facility doesn’t yet have the kind of body scanner that can spot drugs by X-ray. The province has promised the new scanner will be installed this fall.
Correctional officers say they’re not yet allowed or trained to carry naloxone, the drug that can stop an opioid overdose if given quickly,
“I know fentanyl is going to pose a significant problem for EMDC,” said Kevin Egan, a London lawyer representing hundreds of inmates in civil action.
“A small dose can have a huge impact. it is going to be easily smuggled in,” Egan said. “It is a growing epidemic.”
The overdoses reveal problems within EMDC involving security, staffing and health care, but a larger societal problem as well, he said. “They are warehousing addicts instead of treating them.”
Fall’s death is the seventh in the past five years at EMDC.
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Inmate deaths at EMDC
July 30, 2017: Suspected OD
June 6, 2017: Suicide
Oct. 31, 2016: Suspected OD
Aug. 23, 2015: Unknown
Dec. 24, 2014: Natural/withdrawal
Sept. 30, 2014: Suicide
Oct. 31, 2013: Homicide
London News & Search