Inflation spares no one. Not the good ones, not the bad.

Contraband, which is the bane of prisons and penitentiaries, has its value arbitrarily jacked up by Correction Services Canada (CSC) to apparently signify its actual value within the institution.

The inflationary markup, in fact, is startling.

On Oct. 18 and 19, 2022, for example, staff vigilance at Quebec’s Drummondville medium-security prison prompted the discovery by correctional officers of contraband which included 558 grams of hashish, one gram of cannabis wax, 878 grams of tobacco, eight cellphones, charging cables and SIM cards.

Now, 558 grams of hashish is almost 20 ounces, which is over a pound, but the value given for all the contraband seized—the hash, the small amount of cannabis wax, the pound-plus of loose tobacco and the cellphones—was pegged at a staggering $102,600.

It was an official example of cooking the books.

Cannabis was also among the contraband confiscated at another federal medium-security facility, Quebec’s Cowansville Institution. 

On Oct. 20, staff there found $17,760 in items, including 100 grams of hashish, 38 grams of cannabis, 12 grams of cannabis wax, 50 grams of tobacco, one cellphone and two SIM cards.

Just one day earlier, staff discovered a package containing 87 grams of hashish and 550 grams of tobacco which, combined, had an estimated institutional value of $17,450.

Contraband, of course,  is confiscated regularly in CSC facilities. Just recently at the Kent Institution in B.C., about $150,000 in contraband, including cannabis concentrates, was seized.

Earlier this month in Kingston, Ont., correctional officers at Joyceville recovered a package containing 205 grams of tobacco, 215 grams of cannabis, 132 grams of shatter (marijuana concentrate), 110 grams of hashish and an unidentified number of cellphones and related accessories on Oct. 14.

Unfortunately Ontario doesn’t play the “institutional value” game, but the haul at Joyceville would have had a massive value.

“News releases issued in the Ontario Region do not provide a monetary value of any contraband and/or unauthorized items seized,” said Hannah Wilson, a communications official with CSC.

“This is on account of the values changing due to such factors as the geographical location of the seizure and the regional or local trends (including, but not limited to an item’s price, the institution’s security level, and intelligence information available  at the time the items are seized).

“Rather, what is included in the news releases is the type of contraband and/or unauthorized items seized and the specific quantity and/or weight of the items,” she said. 

“As such, I do not have any information to provide on the value of contraband and unauthorized items seized at (institutions such as)  Millhaven, or any other Correctional Service of Canada Institution in the Ontario Region.”

This is a shame.

In the past, drones have been used to drop contraband packages inside the walls of Millhaven, a maximum-security prison, and many of the drops have been substantial — often including weapons (mainly knives) as well as burner cell phones.

But the staples are always drugs and tobacco.

One of the largest dollar-value seizures occurred at Manitoba’s maximum security Stony Mountain Institution on Sept. 1 when $1.8 million worth of drugs and other contraband was seized in a single package along the jail’s perimeter.

Inside the package, corrections staff found methamphetamine, fentanyl, cannabis concentrate and THC concentrate, the news release said.

It also contained cigarettes and rolling papers, as well as cellphones, chargers and SIM cards.

All in all, it was a nice score—just $200,000 shy of $2 million.

Trebles all around.


  • Mark Bonokoski

    Mark Bonokoski is a member of the Canadian News Hall of Fame and has been published by a number of outlets – including the Toronto Sun, Maclean’s and Readers’ Digest.

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