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.