An inmate at Manitoba’s Stony Mountain Institution who once served as chairman of a prisoners’ liaison committee has been sentenced to more than 10 years for selling carfentanil.
Christopher Thomas Hastings, who is 32, was convicted of possession for the purpose of trafficking about 3.7 grams of powdered carfentanil after guards searched his cell in April 2017.
He also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for making phone calls after he was charged in attempts to get other inmates to admit they gave him the deadly opioid.
Court heard investigators discovered Hastings was taking advantage of his position as a prisoners’ spokesman and his status in a gang to run a drug-dealing business and illegal store within Stony Mountain.
The court was also told that Hastings was addicted to heroin and asked guards to take him to the hospital after he ingested some of the carfentanil, saying it was stronger than the heroin he was used to.
In passing sentence on Monday, provincial court Judge Wanda Garreck ruled there was not enough proof he knew the powder was carfentanil.
Garreck noted the danger of deadly overdoses was the same, regardless of whether Hastings knew what he was selling.
“There was no way of knowing if any of the overdoses occurring in Stony Mountain were the result of the drug carfentanil or if it was the result of the carfentanil Mr. Hastings was trafficking, but it was known that carfentanil and fentanyl was making its way through the institution,” she said.
Along with seized drugs, investigators also found a debt collection list on which Hastings had noted he was owed a total of $1,800 from seven people.
He was sentenced to 10 years for the trafficking charge, six months for obstruction of justice and a concurrent six months for drug possession.
James Bloomfield, prairie regional president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers and a correctional officer at Stony Mountain, said small amounts of carfentanil and fentanyl have been found at the prison in recent years.
Bloomfield said drug overdoses within the facility happen on a “regular basis” and staff still lack adequate protective gear to keep them from being exposed to prisoners’ bodily fluids and contraband drugs.
“The officers who are on the front line dealing with this are under the most pressure I’ve seen in the last 20 years, for sure, that I’ve been in the service,” he said.
Data were not immediately available Monday from the Correctional Service of Canada on the number of drug overdoses that have happened at the prison, or the presence of potent opioids there.
Carfentanil is used to tranquilize large animals. It’s considered 4,000 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more potent than fentanyl.