A former corrections officer is raising the alarm about the ease of drugs getting into prison after an in-custody death at Okanagan Correctional Centre on Sunday.
The former employee of OCC, who Castanet will refer to as X, asked to remain anonymous for fear of professional repercussions. They worked at the facility previously and were alerted to the death by a former colleague.
"The system failed him by allowing drugs into the prison," X said.
X and other sources have identified the man who passed as Kenneth (Kenny) Patrick Morrison, who was in custody awaiting trial for attempted murder in relation to an armed carjacking in Kelowna's Glenmore neighbourhood earlier this year. He was set to go before a judge for a bail hearing this week in Kelowna.
The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General would not comment on the identity of the deceased, citing privacy concerns.
The ministry did confirm that a death occurred on Sept. 25, adding that "any death in custody is a tragedy and our thoughts are with this individual’s family and friends at this time."
The BC Coroners Service is now involved and confirmed they are investigating a death at the OCC.
"Cause and manner of death are determined by coroners at the conclusion of their investigations, a process that typically takes several months to complete," the Corners Service said.
X said drugs are rampant inside Okanagan Correctional Centre.
"He [Morrison] got a hold of some of this fentanyl that's on the street right now and it killed him."
Kelowna RCMP warned the public of multiple drug overdoses on Saturday after five lives were lost in nine hours. Interior Health followed up the tragedy by saying that the drug supply is increasingly toxic and unpredictable throughout the Interior. The health authority then issued a drug alert on Monday.
According to X, the inmate overdosed while in segregation.
"They found him and another guy in a regular living unit, they found them with drugs and before they could seize the drugs, he stuffed them up his bum to save them. So they knew he had them. He refused to go and get his body scanned. So they put both these guys in segregation," X added.
The former corrections officer said it is believed Morrison did the drugs in segregation.
"They tried to do what they could, they Narcaned him, and it didn't help. They called the paramedics and when they got there, they worked on him for about an hour and a half. And he succumbed to his drugs."
The provincial government said BC Corrections maintains a "zero-tolerance for illegal drugs within correctional centres and has stringent security measures in place to deal with contraband, which includes illegal drugs and unauthorized controlled substances."
When individuals are admitted to a corrections facility, within the first 24 hours, they receive a physical and mental health assessment, according to the ministry.
While the facilities use mail screening, cell searches, video surveillance and other measures also help prevent contraband from entering, the Ministry said that they know "that people living with addiction will sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to meet their needs."
According to statistics from the BC Coroners Service, eight illicit drug toxicity deaths occurred in correctional facility/police cells in 2021, and four have been reported for 2022.
X said that the system needs to change.
"The security lacks and the drugs are getting into the prison," they said.
- with files from Kristen Holliday