[BOT] After years of pressure, prison service to usher in needle exchange programs

Tuesday, May 15 2018

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After years of pressure, prison service to usher in needle exchange programs
Found: Wed May 16 02:45:36 2018 PDT
Source: Weyburn Review (CN SN)
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After years of pressure, prison service to usher in needle exchange programs After years of pressure, prison service to usher in needle exchange programs
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After years of pressure, prison service to usher in needle exchange programs
Jim Bronskill / The Canadian Press
May 15, 2018 02:00 AM
Patches are seen on the arm and shoulder of a corrections officer in the segregation unit at the Fraser Valley Institution for Women during a media tour, in Abbotsford, B.C., on Thursday October 26, 2017. The federal prison service plans to introduce needle exchange programs in a bid to reduce the incidence of infectious diseases among inmates . THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
OTTAWA -- The federal prison service plans to introduce needle exchange programs in a bid to reduce the incidence of infectious diseases among inmates .
The move, which comes after years of pressure from prisoners and health advocates, was quickly denounced by the union representing prison guards.
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The Correctional Service says programs will be unfurled in June at Atlantic Institution in New Brunswick and Grand Valley Institution for Women in Ontario. The lessons learned will be applied to a full national roll-out in January.
The initiative will give federal inmates access to clean needles in an effort to limit the transmission of infectious diseases , such as hepatitis C and HIV, the prison service said in its announcement.
Costs of the program will come from existing budgets.
From 2007 to 2017, the prevalence of hepatitis C in prison declined to 7.8 per cent from 31.6 per cent, while HIV dropped to 1.2 per cent from just over two per cent, according to federal statistics.
However, these infections are still far more widespread behind bars than among the general public.
The current approach to prevent and control blood-borne and sexually transmitted infections includes screening, testing, education, substance-abuse programs and treatment.
A 2017 Correctional Service memo, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, advised Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale that the idea of a needle program warranted consideration.
It said a program to provide clean drug-injection needles to prisoners could reduce the spread of hepatitis C by 18 per cent a year.
The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network has long argued for needle-exchange programs in prisons and applauded the planned program as a sign the federal government "recognizes the solid and mounting international evidence" about the effectiveness of needle programs in preventing infections.
In 2012, the legal network helped launch a constitutional challenge in Ontario court against the federal government over its refusal to make sterile injection equipment available to prisoners .
The network says the litigation "is still necessary" to ensure the government implements needle programs in all federal prisons in accordance with the evidence and public health principles.
Correctional Service officials have previously raised concerns about syringe needles being used as weapons.
The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers said the planned new program "represents a dangerous turning point" and accused the prison service of closing its eyes to drug trafficking in institutions.
The initiative "poses a real threat for correctional officers and will put the lives of many inmates at risk," the union said.
In its announcement, the Correctional Service said the safety and security of staff, the public and inmates are "of utmost importance."
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