Family wants answers after Krystle Catherwood dies of suspected overdose death at Barton jail

Catherwood said Krystle had her troubles but had been a personal support worker and was a “beautiful person.”

Her sister called her a “very caring person who would help anyone before helping herself.” This is partly what held Krystle back, Amber Catherwood said in an email.

Krystle was living with addiction and “struggled to win the battle,” Amber said. “Her kind heart and need to make sure others were OK was admirable, even when she had very little to give,” she said.

The news of Krystle’s death has left her sister and father angry and disappointed.

Amber questions why Krystle was not found sooner when a similar situation occurred less than 12 hours prior.

“The system has failed many and now another,” she wrote.

There have been at least six other suspected overdose deaths among inmates at the jail since 2017. Those were all men.

These latest deaths are in addition to eight deaths between 2012 and 2016 that were examined as part of a large-scale inquest a year ago. In that inquest, the jury made 62 sweeping recommendations for reform, including better supervision, access to health care and programing.

During the inquest, the jury heard from families, jail staff and experts including a panel of health care professionals who called for a cultural shift at the jail.

The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services has not yet responded to the recommendations, which are not binding. However, some changes have happened in recent years, including the addition of full body scanners used on admission and the implementation of an institutional security team.

One inmate at Barton, who the Spectator has agreed not to name over fear of reprisal, said inmates were talking about a shipment of a couple ounces of purple heroin (a mix of heroin and fentanyl) that had been smuggled into the jail earlier this week. “The whole institution abuzz,” he said. “It’s not over.”

He said the drugs came into a male range. Female inmates are housed on the first floor of the jail and do not have any contact with male populations. However, it’s common for drugs to move between ranges through laundry or food, he said.

Most drugs are believed to be smuggled in by inmates hidden in a body cavity. Other documented ways have been through lawyers, or correctional staff, deliveries, packages dropped in yards and even drug-soaked stamps or cards.

Since the addition of the full body scanner, inmates and some correctional officers have said they believe that by wrapping a package in carbon paper and shaping it to look like feces you can trick the scanner. However, at the large inquest last year an expert said that’s not true, that the issue is actually staff not properly reading the screen.

The inmate said he believes there are a lot more non-fatal overdoses at the jail than get reported. He said inmates can be reluctant to flag correctional staff for help, fearing a search that would lead to everyone on the range losing property.

The continued deaths at the Barton jail and similar deaths at correctional institutions across the province have prompted families left behind to rally outside jails. The next protest is April 28 at 2 p.m. outside the Hamilton jail.

For families who have already lost loved ones, news of yet another death is devastating.

“This is an epidemic,” said April Tykoliz, whose brother Marty died May 7, 2014.

“When does it stop?” asked Amy McKechnie, whose brother Ryan died June 29, 2017.

After a death in jail there are a number of investigations that take place, including the coroner and an internal ministry review. If the death is found to not be of natural causes, a mandatory inquest is called.

905-526-3199 | @NicoleatTheSpec

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905-526-3199 | @NicoleatTheSpec

905-526-2420 | @NatatTheSpec