Ed Taylor spent a decade as a prison guard. Now, the 32-year-old will be on the other side of the bars as a prisoner.
In Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s Monday, Taylor was sentenced to 16 months in jail, and 18 months’ probation, for planning to deal drugs at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP), where he worked.
Taylor, of St. John’s, had pleaded guilty to five counts of possessing drugs for the purpose of trafficking. The drugs included ecstasy, oxycodone, Clonazepam and morphine.
Justice Wayne Dymond said the biggest determining factor in his decision was the breach of trust.
“(Taylor) breached that trust when he used his place of employment as his distribution point,” the judge said.
“The fact that he was a correctional officer and acting in such capacity at the time he was arrested was a further aggravating factor.”
Citing case law, Dymond pointed out that prisons are volatile places and inmates aren’t happy to be there.
He said violence and drug trafficking are persistent and jeopardize the administration of these institutions.
“It would be difficult to exaggerate the scope of depth of harm caused within prisons by the traffic and consumption of drugs,” the judge said, quoting a Quebec judge’s decision in a similar case from that province.
“The importation of drugs into a prison by anyone is a serious crime. Importation by a guard is worse.”
Dymond said it was Taylor’s sworn duty as a prison guard to serve and protect inmates. Instead, his intention was to traffic drugs, which corrupts the security of the prison.
Taylor lost his job at HMP in 2010 when he was found with illegal and prescription drugs, along with other unauthorized items, that were destined for inside the prison.
The RNC investigation began on Jan. 22, 2010, as a result of a tip that Taylor was smuggling drugs to inmates.
Surveillance was set up on Feb. 22, 2010, when officers saw Taylor visiting the home of a well-known criminal. As a result, Taylor was searched by prison management when he arrived for his night shift.
They confiscated several items which are banned at the prison, including three cigarettes, a plastic bag with four pills, a crushed substance wrapped in plastic, a tube of super glue, a container of moisturizing lotion and a small pocket deodorizer. He was dismissed from his shift and asked to leave HMP.
His car was later seized by police and searched. Officers found a small quantity of marijuana, three ecstasy pills, 31 oxycodone, 38 morphine and five Clonazepam. There were 48 other pills which were not controlled substances, including Zopiclone and Quetiapine. There was also a lighter and rolling papers.
These items were contained in two prepared packages — one wrapped in newspaper and one in a magazine that was taped up.
The judge said while Taylor — who released on bail shortly after his arrest — was not trafficking in cocaine, oxycodone and morphine are considered to be just as serious.
He acknowledged the amounts involved were small.
Dymond considered other mitigating factors, as well, including the guilty pleas and Taylor’s expression of remorse.
He said while Taylor has a 2009 conviction for assault, he’s a first-time offender for drug offences.
Dymond also noted that Taylor has addiction problems and some mental health issues which he is dealing with through counselling and rehabilitation.
Still, the judge said he couldn’t ignore the seriousness of the offence.
Crown prosecutors Brenda Boyd and Sheldon Steeves had asked for a three-year jail term.
Taylor’s lawyer, John Kelly, said a conditional sentence of two years less a day would be better.
The judge said had Taylor not been a prison guard, he would be facing a sentence of six to nine months behind bars.
“However, because there is a breach of trust, and that breach of trust goes to the very core of Mr. Taylor’s employment and the institutional values, a substantially longer term of imprisonment is required,” Dymond said.
Therefore, he said, a conditional sentence was not appropriate.
“It is not easy to send someone like Mr. Taylor to prison, even for a short period of time, especially when his time will likely be more problematic than for an average inmate,” Dymond said.
“However, to allow Mr. Taylor to serve his sentence in the community would send a wrong message to anyone who provides drugs to a prison population.”
Dymond said Taylor knew better than anyone the seriousness and penalties for dealing drugs at the prison.
“This breach of trust, if it is to mean anything at all, has to be denounced by the courts, so that it deters anyone who would be like-minded,” he said.
Dymond said the sentence is a proper balance — heeding the need to deter such behaviour as well as Taylor’s chances of rehabilitation.
The conditions of Taylor’s probation include that he continue counselling for alcohol, drug addiction and mental health issues as recommended by his doctors and counsellors, and that he abstain from drinking alcohol and using non-prescription drugs, both legal and illegal. The judge also ordered that all drugs seized in the investigation be forfeited.
Taylor is not allowed to have a firearm for 10 years and must submit a DNA sample.
As well, in an unusual move, the judge also ordered that Taylor have contact with his own psychiatrist while he’s in jail.
“It has to be clear to prison authorities that, if the courts in this province are incarcerating individuals with mental health issues, the necessary infrastructure programs and medications required to keep inmates healthy have to be provided for them, under proper supervision,” Dymond said.
Before proceedings ended, Dymond had one last piece of advice for Taylor.
“Mr. Taylor, let this be a big lesson in life. These are serious offences. You have to start straightening yourself out …,” he said.
“Hopefully I don’t see you back here again.”