We are asking that Correctional Service Canada (CSC), Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Ralph Goodale and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau immediately address the high rate of 'false positive' ion scanner results among visitors to Canadian prisons.
Ion Mobility Spectrometry, better known as the Ion Scanner, is a drug-detection system used by CSC in federal prisons. Introduced in 1995, the system was intended to help stop the entry of drugs into prisons.
When processed through this system, visitors are asked to give a possession (e.g. keys or watch) or article of clothing to be analyzed for trace amounts of drugs. Visitors are subjected to this drug screening process, though staff, volunteers and others who enter the institution are not.
CSC has admitted that ion scanners frequently indicate “false positives,” meaning visitors who are drug-free test positive for drugs.
This problem occurs because the scanner is extremely sensitive, searching for the presence of drugs down to the nanogram. Individuals often pick up trace amounts of prohibited substances when they touch items like money and credit cards, or use certain household cleaners (e.g. Clorox wipes) or cosmetic products (e.g. perfume).
Furthermore, a 2006 internal audit by CSC found that “ion scan policies and procedures were not being followed.”
For family members, the threat of a false positive, and its associated consequences, adds an additional layer of stress when visiting their loved one.
But the consequences are even greater for prisoners. Information from visitors’ run-ins with the scanner are entered into the prisoner’s file and may affect future decisions about transfers and/or parole.
In addition to having these adverse consequences, ion scanners are ineffective in their stated goal of keeping drugs out of prisons, and problems such as the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C, as well as other health consequences, continue to be pressing problems in Canadian correctional institutions.
We must switch from a punitive and ineffective drug-detection system to a health and rehabilitation-based model that assists prisoners, rather than targeting their family members, who often play a key role in their rehabilitation and reintegration.
While this campaign has arisen from my own painful experiences when visiting my son at a federal institution, I know that it is not a unique or local problem. I am asking anyone who has been affected by this issue, or who supports change, to please sign this petition.