Ex-inmate says he got key out of London’s troubled jail – The London Free Press
London lawyer Kevin Egan thought he’d seen and heard it all about Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre.
Then a former inmate arrived in his office a few months ago with a key.
The key, the man said, came from the provincial jail in London.
He had found it while in custody, and somehow got it out.
A little surprised, Egan took some photographs and placed the key in a safe space.
He contacted EMDC and last week, the security manager for the institution came to his office and took the key back, Egan said.
“It shows how weak the system is, that somebody could steal a key and get it out. It’s mind-boggling,” said Egan, who represents hundreds of inmates in civil action against the province and has been advocating for change at the jail for seven years.
Egan won’t say how the inmate says he got the key.
“I think it was just a fun thing to do, a bit of lark. He really didn’t have any plans for it,” Egan said.
The security manager did not confirm to him the key came from EMDC, but his questions about how the key got out suggested he was concerned, Egan said.
An employee of EMDC viewed a photograph of the key and confirmed it was a key for the institution.
Each jail key has a number which matches it with certain doors, he said.
“That is a main key,” he said. “That is 100 per cent a jail key.”
Making matters even more serious, some keys can be used at other correctional facilities in Ontario, he said.
The key bears the name of an American manufacturer, Folder Adam Co., and a Canadian distributor, Strongbar Industries Inc.
The classic Folger Adam detention key, seen on its website, looks the same as the one brought to Egan, with a signature A making up part of the handle.
An employee with Strongbar in Mississauga confirmed the company does supply keys to the province’s correctional system, including EMDC.
There are older Folger Adam keys for sale online, but a quick search didn’t turn up any keys with the Canadian company Strongbar etched into the handle.
The Free Press asked the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services what level of concern a missing key raises and if there will be an investigation into how it went missing.
“The safety and security of its institutions are of primary concern to the Ministry,” spokesperson Brent Ross said.
“The Ministry does not provide comment on security matters, but should a serious security matter arise, an investigation is always undertaken.”
The fact a key could be missing for months should be a concern, Egan said.
“I don’t think they knew they were missing a key.”
Security at EMDC has come under the spotlight recently, with seven male inmates overdosing on one range the same last week and four female inmates overdosing the same day on a range in March.
After several delays, this year the jail received an x-ray body scanner that can spot packages hidden in body cavities. However, drugs like the deadly opioid fentanyl can be smuggled in small quantities that appear like normal feces on the scanner, correctional officers say.
If something looks suspicious, a correctional officer must check with a manager to determine if an inmate should be put in segregation to wait for the contraband to come out.
But with open segregation beds few and far between, unless the shadow on a scanner is obviously drugs, it’s simply easier to send the suspected inmate onto a unit without further checks, correctional officers say.
Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (Free Press file photo)
The seven overdoses Aug. 9 has put attention on the new Progressive Conservative government’s ideas on handling the problems facing Ontario’s corrections system.
“In opposition, the Progressive Conservatives pushed for the health and safety of correctional workers and for meaningful solutions to the crisis in corrections,” Smokey Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents correctional workers, said in a statement released Monday.
“It’s my hope they will immediately begin consulting with OPSEU and our frontline workers to identify and follow through with the most effective means to finally end this crisis. These overdoses should serve as a painful reminder that this is a matter of life and death – and it’s not going away.”
Thomas praised the EMDC staff for their swift response to the overdoses Aug. 9
“From what I understand, when officers came upon the inmates, they realized quickly what had happened – and knew precisely what to do to save the inmates’ lives. Emergency services were called and medication was used to reverse the effects of the drugs that caused the overdose.”
EMDC “has a reputation as being one of the most dangerous detention centres to work at in the province,” Thomas said.