Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC) officers will soon have a new tool at their disposal.
The province announced it’s installing ion scanners at 10 adult correctional facilities across Ontario as part of an effort to combat contraband entering facilities, enhance security and improve staff and inmate safety.
"Detecting and preventing the entry of contraband is critical to keeping Ontario's correctional facilities safe," Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said in a release outlining the plan, which will see the Penetanguishene facility receive two of the devices.
“Our government is committed to equipping our corrections staff with the modern tools and technology they need to do their job safely and ensure continued security."
Richard Dionne, president of CNCC OPSEU local 369, said the scanners will definitely help correctional officers effectively identify potential contraband.
“The introduction of drugs is one of our biggest concerns and this will be helpful in detecting them,” Dionne said. “Locally, we've had a number of overdoses over the years as a result of drugs being brought in.”
That said, Dionne said that ensuring staff are properly trained on the new equipment is of equal importance.
“The union is always supportive of the introduction of new equipment that will assist staff and identify potential contraband being introduced into the institutions,” he said.
Ion scanners are security tools used to detect and identify trace elements of drugs and are an added layer of security available to correctional staff to help prevent illegal substances from entering facilities.
Adult correctional facilities in Ontario currently use various methods to prevent, detect, confiscate and reduce contraband within institutions, including body scanners, hand-held and walk-through metal detectors, strip searches and canine units.
“The union has been seeking the introduction of ion scanners for several years, and they were first introduced at the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre in 2019, after years of requests and discussions with the employer,” Dionne said.
But that particular facility has also since received an Institutional Security Team (IST), whose main functions include the detection of contraband within their institution.
Added Dionne: “The request for an IST for CNCC has been made several times, with no support from the Ministry."
Other locations receiving two ion scanners each include: Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton, Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre, Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre and Maidstone's South West Detention Centre.
In the northern region, the Kenora Jail, Thunder Bay Jail and Sudbury Jail will each receive three scanners while the Toronto South Detention Centre will get one under the provincial plan.
“This announcement from the government is a testament to their dedication to frontline corrections staff,” former CNCC union head Chris Jackel, who now co-chairs the Corrections Ministry Employee Relations, said in a release.
“This technological investment will go a long way in providing correctional staff with the added tools to detect contraband before it enters our institutions, enhancing staff, inmate and public safety even further.”
According to the province, work is now underway to train staff at the aforementioned institutions to have all ion scanners fully operational by the summer.