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Get with the program, CPSU

By John Hargreaves 9 January 2017 30

Safe injecting facility - syringe

I just can’t figure why the CPSU is against the safe injecting facility at the AMC. They have way too much say in whether the occupants of the AMC can have the same harm minimisation opportunities as the rest of us.

They have no say in whether the safe injecting facility in the City operates or not, so why should they have any say in its operation in our prison?

They say that they are worried that the custodial officers are at risk from being stabbed. I reckon they are more at risk now than if there is a safe injecting facility available to the residents of the AMC.

Let us remember that the community facility is not run by the police, or corrections officers. It is run by Directions ACT in partnership with ACT Health. The availability of clean syringes is regarded as a health issue not anything else. It is part of a regime to get people off drugs.

How’s this for an idea? When people share needles, Hep C is spread, HIV is spread, all manner of blood borne diseases are spread. If clean needles are used that the risk of that spread is removed. Hep C is rampant is all prisons because the corrections officers just can’t stop the needles getting into the prison. I reckon that the corrections officers are a greater risk now than if they had a clean needle program happening in there.

This is how it works.

Firstly, an understanding of the health facilities in the AMC is required. The medical centre is a “Health Centre” just like the ones on the outside. It is not part of the Corrections system. It is staffed by health professionals and the prisoners are delivered there and once inside, they are clients of the health system not of the corrections system.

So, let’s see how Prisoner 248 copes. Presently, he is addicted to heroin and gets his stuff smuggled in (and there is no stopping the smugglers completely), he also gets his needles smuggled in or makes them himself. He shares the needle around in exchange for drugs when he runs out.

He contracts Hep C and gives it to everyone he shares a needle with. If he gets hassled by the officers, he can always threaten them with an unclean needle.

If he overdoses or has a reaction. Tough luck. He can just hope someone finds him and helps him.

But, if he can get a needle from the health centre under control conditions, the transmission of Hep C is thwarted, there is no need to smuggle needles into the prison nor any need to make them onsite.

If he has a reaction, there is a nurse nearby to administer a health regime to save his life. If he has an overdose, a nurse is there to administer naltrexone to counter the effect of the drug.

While he is in the facility he is exposed to a regime of education designed to help him off the drugs as part of a whole-of-patient regime. He is also subjected to voluntary health assessments relative to his drug dependence and the correlation of drug use and general poor quality health is explained to him.

The officers are not at risk because the whole episode is supervised by the health staff who are trained in this type of work.

When Prisoner 248 is finished in the health centre, he is escorted back to the cells or the yards. He is not under the influence of the drugs to the same extent as would be case if he was not supervised.

Before anyone accuses me of avoiding the issue of drugs being in the prison at all, my view is that the officers still should be trying to stop the drugs getting in but need to be realistic about the success of their endeavours. I see no conflict at all in having two separate systems to achieve the safety of both officers and inmates.

The CPSU needs to understand that drug dependence is a health issue and the health professionals are best place d to deal with it. Corrections officers are not experts in this field and the attitude of the union continues to put officers at risk by opposing a system which prevents the spread of blood borne disease and which controls the effects of drugs ingested by prisoners. A person high on drugs is best handled by a health professional.

The community at large needs to know that the objections of the CPSU do not acknowledge that there is a facility in the AMC which is not within their authority and which is well able to handle this issue. Further, Directions ACT can administer a safe injecting place just as they do in Civic.

Also, the terminology is misleading. Sure, dirty needles are exchanged for clean ones, but clean ones are available even if there are none to be swapped. The clinical oversight of people is more important than the needle swap. Having the opportunity of talking people around is missed in the AMC and I put this at the feet of the CPSU.

Right now, due to some dogmatic attitude opposing a safe injecting place in the AMC, prisoners’ lives are at risk and so too are the lives of the officers. This opposition is madness and the CPSU needs to be called on it.

They should get with the program and support it.


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Get with the program, CPSU
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Chris Mordd Richards 1:00 am 17 Jan 17

Grrr, gotta re-read before submitting better, did it again sorry – We might not have *SOLUTIONS* (not problems) for every problem in a jail yet – should have read, my bad.

Chris Mordd Richards 12:58 am 17 Jan 17

I sometimes vehemently disagree with John H on here, sometimes I vehemently agree.

In this case it is the latter, and the hypocrisy on show in these comments is revealing in and of itself.

Sorry – that comment applies the same to this piece as John’s other AMC piece.

The NSP is a no brainer, it’s time we stopped arguing about it and just followed common sense. We might not have problems for every problem in a jail yet, but as NSP does solve one major one, arguing that we haven’t solved all the other problems yet is no reason to hold back introducing an NSP into the AMC when it does solve one important problem right now. The evidence for this is overwhelming, it is appalling this is still being argued over and not implemented already.

James_Ryan 10:01 am 15 Jan 17

You’re grasping at straws.

Just because some serious traffic accidents are caused by factors other than alcohol, doesn’t stop the police from conducting RBT operations.

Just because BBVs can be transmitted by other means, doesn’t stop governments from providing NSP services.

90% of hep C infections are transmitted through unsterile injecting.

BBVs can be transmitted by toothbrushes, razors, fighting, but the likelihood is pretty low when you compare it with injecting. Tattooing is a transmission risk, but much lower than injecting.

The CPSU have got this one wrong.

Blen_Carmichael 2:29 pm 14 Jan 17

John Hargreaves said :

As you have admitted, it is a facility within the health area of the prison and not the general concourse and thus within the responsibility of medical staff and not corrections officers. I see no reason for them to be involved…

I see. What about the prison cafeteria, which is full of metal instruments such as knives and forks and other lethal weapons? Presumably this is the responsibility of the catering staff and not corrections officers. Likewise, the prison gymnasium, with all its heavy weights, would be the responsibility of licensed gym instructors, and not corrections officers. In fact corrections officers should not attempt to influence policy in these areas presumably because it’s not in their bailiwick, I take it, John?

John Hargreaves 10:40 am 14 Jan 17

Calet… I refer you to James Ryan’s references re safeguards. In all my discussions with prison authorities and officers over my years as minister, I received the same story.

on the other issues you raise, I agree that they are issues confronting all elements of society and not just prisons but where a solution has been suggested and proved to be efficacious, we should go with it. I won’t, however, lump them all together and miss an opportunity just because I can’t solve the lot.

This solution saves lives. Period. It removes an element of tension between inmates and officers, a good thing. As you have admitted, it is a facility within the health area of the prison and not the general concourse and thus within the responsibility of medical staff and not corrections officers. I see no reason for them to be involved let alone stop the program from starting just because they are misinformed.

Calet 10:24 am 13 Jan 17

John, you do very well ignoring much of what I wrote. This issue goes beyond whatever issues you have with the CPSU. I completely understand the nature of the NSP proposal. The NSP working group proposal was a safe injecting room located in the health centre. It provided equipment to inject drugs and the opportunity for intervention by medical professionals and referrals to programs. No injecting equipment was to leave the health centre. I agree that a properly designed and resourced injecting room is the safest way to provide clean injecting equipment. It is a very suitable solution if injecting was the only vector of BBV transmission but unfortunately it is not.

I am interested in your answers to some questions I raised though:

• What is your solution to the problem of infection due to tattooing in the prison?
• What is your solution to the problem of infection due to blood transmission due to fighting or violence?
• What is your solution to the problem of transmission due to someone accidentally picking up his cellmate’s razor or toothbrush?
• What is your solution to sexual transmission?
• What degree of success do you think it would have without the support of officers?

Also John, where has an NSP been proved to safeguard officers interstate? A reference to the data to back up that statement would be useful.

James_Ryan 7:45 pm 12 Jan 17

chewy14 said :

The problem with this is that whilst drugs are illegal, we shouldn’t be facilitating their use within the prison system.

Prisoners are already facilitating drug use within the prison system. The reality is access to drugs and access to needles.

With respect, it’s not like a regulated NSP will provide anything in terms of “facilitating drug use” that they don’t already have … except sterility, safer injecting, access to medical professionals, & referral to drug and alcohol programs.

It pays to remember that evaluations of current regulated NSPs around the world shows no increase in drug use, no increase in injecting, no safety incidents for staff, just reductions in health problems, better relationships with prison staff, increased referral to drug and alcohol programs.

chewy14 11:45 am 12 Jan 17

The problem with this is that whilst drugs are illegal, we shouldn’t be facilitating their use within the prison system.

The solution isn’t a room for illegal drug injection inside prison, it’s the legalisation of drug use and then its management as a health issue both within and without prison.

James_Ryan 11:22 am 12 Jan 17

Calet, as you know enough to put together that considered response you are probably well aware that important elements of your argument are not correct. Providing specifics here will identify their source, but you and I both know that you’ve said things that are aspirational or policy commitments but are not matched by reality.

The AMC is a hot mess in lots of ways, so there’s little to be gained by assuming that current policy settings will somehow come good and correct the harms and risks. As previously acknowledged, if prison staff can’t get their internal relationships right then what chance is there that detainees will flourish and heal?

This from Winnunga Nimmityjah, by way of just one example, goes to the “real concern for the welfare of prisoners” aspiration that you have cited.

For those who thought following the damning indictment of ACT Corrective Services in the Moss Report into the care (in reality the lack of care) of Steven Freeman in the AMC that things couldn’t get worse, then the recent revelations of widespread and systemic bullying in ACT Corrective Services will come as a shock.

The Canberra Times reported on 23 December that at a meeting of management and staff of ACT Corrections in late November 2016 that allegations were made by staff of ‘a toxic workplace run by fear and high levels of absenteeism, workers compensation claims, staff turnover and unbearable workloads’.

The Canberra Times reported that staff of ACT Corrective Services ‘have told of the risk of suicide and self- harm’ as a result of ‘systemic and widespread workplace bullying’. The allegations are being investigated (internally) by the Professional Standards Unit in the Chief Ministers Directorate.

If, heaven forbid, the allegations are in fact correct and this is how staff in ACT Corrective Services do treat each other, then one’s heart not only goes out to the staff being bullied in this way but also to detainees and people subject to corrections orders and how they may also have been treated.

These allegations coming as they do on top of the damning Moss Report, the recent very critical reports of the Auditor-General and the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety suggest that it is past time for action…

… Winnunga AHS believes that the Government should implement as a matter of urgency all the recommendations of the Moss review and consider the need for further and broader reform.

John Hargreaves 11:16 am 12 Jan 17

Sorry Calet, but you either misrepresent the facts or misunderstand the nature of the NSP proposal. Have another look at James Ryan’s posts. the NSP does not “hand out needles”, it is a safe injecting facility where old needles are received and disposed of and clean needles used and returned to the nurse for destruction. Net result, one less dirty needle.

Further, I just can’t belie4ve that the officers would reject a proposal which has been proved to safeguard their fellow officers interstate and overseas. This is madness.

And as for the CPSU being a slave to its members, really? Since when has that been the case. I was a member for nearly 30 years and know that campaigns and leadership comes from the union hierarchy. As for unions dabbling into political and policy areas, were you at the ALP annual conference in the last couple of years? From your stance I doubt it. Well, I was and I saw the tussle.

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