No needles in new prison

Jazz 2 August 2007 30

In one of those rare moments that is sure to startle us all both sides of the legislative assembly have agreed that providing a needle exchange facility in the yet to be built ACT Prison is a bad idea.


ABC Online
report that ACT Govt corrections staff are confident they can keep drugs out all of the prision all together and while Zed Seselja thinks that any consideration of a needle exchange would be sending a soft message, it seems that at least for now Comrade Jon is agreeing.

Whether it is politically expedient to change his mind later we shall see.


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30 Responses to No needles in new prison
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stan_bowles stan_bowles 8:56 am 03 Aug 07

“Whilst we can blab on about Hep A B C, Aids, effect on the community, there is another issue to consider. If we give Prisoners a needle we are also giving them a weapon. How many prison guards out there would be happy to have prisoners with needles.”

Yes, but of the countries that have trialled needle exchange programs including there are no recorded incidents of a needle being used as a weapon by a prisoner.

However, in 1991 a NSW prison officer was stabbed by a used needle and developed HIV/AIDS. This took place in the abscence of a prison needle exchange program.

jr jr 12:40 am 03 Aug 07

@johnboy,
if you are assaulted with a needle in prison it isn’t going to make any difference if the needle is new or reground. If the contents of the needle contain infectious materials you are going to be u/s either way.

jemmy jemmy 11:34 pm 02 Aug 07

asp, sure, there shouldn’t be drugs in prison and they should be under supervision. The point, there are drugs and they can’t be watched closely enough to prevent it. So, given that is the reality, what do we do about it? Seriously, what do you propose to do to prevent the spread of disease, given that you can’t prevent drugs from being smuggled in?

I’m not having a go at you, but I really think there is an element of pie-in-the-sky, that it shouldn’t be this way and so we’ll ban needle exchanges and that’ll fix it, whereas in fact it is that way and banning needle exchanges won’t fix it, it will make it worse.

We need real world solutions. Sometimes, unfortunately, we have to swallow our civic pride and sense of justice and accept that a less-than-desirable outcome is the best way to tackle it.

asp asp 11:05 pm 02 Aug 07

jemmy, the point is in the outside community, where not confined to t e four square meter cell under constant guard. People can get up to this crap and there is a greater chance of harm to the general public from discared syringes and zoned out junkies. Hence, a safe injecting room encourages safe use of syringes, not the actual use of drugs per se. It makes it safer for everyone and provides a place where junkies can be encourage to try an quit.

In jail however, there should be no excuse for drug use. They should be under close supervision and should be FORCED to go through rehab. Ther use of drugs in jail also reduces the impact that incarciration has on them. Afterall, who cares about serving two months when most of that time, the crims are zoned out singing Lucy in the sky with Diamonds. I am mean the William Shatner version too. Sickos!

johnboy johnboy 11:03 pm 02 Aug 07

Frankly if I was being sexually assaulted I’d be rather pleased that my attacker had a free condom.

Similarly if I was a prison guard being assaulted with a needle I’d rather get a clean new one than a constantly re-ground one.

It’s amazing what naive ivory tower views we have when it comes to the punishment of others.

If they can keep the drugs out of the prison then fine, the inmates won’t have much use for the needles either.

smack smack 8:11 pm 02 Aug 07

Whilst we can blab on about Hep A B C, Aids, effect on the community, there is another issue to consider. If we give Prisoners a needle we are also giving them a weapon. How many prison guards out there would be happy to have prisoners with needles. I dont think they get paid enough to be stabbed or injected with Hep A B C, Aids. I think the safety of the Prison staff should be the first priority, they work there, they arent sentenced there.

jemmy jemmy 6:30 pm 02 Aug 07

Lot of wishful thinking going on here. Drugs are illegal in the outside community too, yet we provide needle-exchanges. I don’t see the difference.

The crims eventually are released from gaol, but they’ve still got the disease that can infect the rest of us. I’d rather the incidence of hep-c etc reduced everywhere, including people coming out of gaol.

I honestly think some people here get on their high-horse about what ought to be and the gummint orta fixit (with a magic wand?), instead of facing up to real world problems and the most effective way of dealing with them.

pierce pierce 4:54 pm 02 Aug 07

Of course, if drug laws were to be reformed, we mightn’t even have some of these people getting locked up in the first place. (But that’s a whole other mess)

DJ DJ 4:35 pm 02 Aug 07

Harm minimisation in the community is one thing – in goals it is unacceptable. Have you ever heard of a junkie not telling a Magistrate that want to get clean but that it’s just too hard unless the tax payer funds an interstate rehab trip? Go to goal – get clean or stay there.

I’m waiting for Stanhope to have somebody, most likely that fool Foskey, throw his bill of rights at him and the outcome will be several inmates and their visitors sitting in air conditioned comfort on leather triple seat lounges injecting with clean needles in front of a 42″ plasma screen showing foxtell while their kids play with the other friendly inmates….

VYBerlinaV8 now_with_added grunt VYBerlinaV8 now_with_added grunt 4:33 pm 02 Aug 07

Is proper drug rehab really available in gaols? What about this one?

Thumper Thumper 3:57 pm 02 Aug 07

Agreed that it’s a tough issue.

Yet when all is said and done a great percentage of people in prison are there due to, or because of something in relation to drug use. As such every concievable effort should be made to make gaols drug free.

And given this, rehab should be freely available.

And if the ACT government can do this then all kudos to them.

It’s one of the more sensible things I’ve heard from this government.

pierce pierce 3:38 pm 02 Aug 07

Yeah, it’s a tough one. I appreciate the fact that drugs are banned (mm-kay) and for prison authorities to hand out needles is a weakening of their power but the harm minimisation argument still seems essential.

Perhaps the answer is to incorporate it into rehab somehow – maybe this is the place to test heroin trials?

asp asp 2:07 pm 02 Aug 07

I will say from the outset that I am not against needles exchanges, so long as they are located appropriatly (not near schools) and they do not go so far as to sanction the use of drugs. In public, if they get used needles off the street, it’s great and serves both the community and the junkies. It’s win-win.

But prison is meant to at least try and get these idiots off the drugs. Some still gets in the cells, god knows how, but to introduce a needle exchange would be essentialy conceading defeat and sanctioning drugs in jails. Furthermore, what con would use it? If drugs in prisons are not allowed, then if a con came to exchange needles, the authorities would be compelled to aprehend him/her. Which means no one would use the exchange. It’s a self fulfilling prophacy.

neanderthalsis, can’t say I disagree with your option B. But with judges handing out such pitiful prison terms, these creeps would spread Hep and AIDS around the community.

My plan. You know how prison toilets are of steel construction. Well, install covert survelilance in cells, attach a power circuit to the toilet seat, and if they are caught doing drugs in their cell. Just fry them the next time they take a dump! Oh, I guess that’s really a form of capital punishment.

neanderthalsis neanderthalsis 1:10 pm 02 Aug 07

Having a needle exchange would be a great way of finding out who actually has access to drugs in the big house. Any con wanting to swap needles is obviously shooting something; so all you have to do is figure out how they are getting the stuff and put a stop to it. (This is my ideal world solution)… Option B is make them use dirty needles and watch them all die of AIDS or Hep A,B&C.

stan_bowles stan_bowles 12:43 pm 02 Aug 07

Strong would be for politicians to quit playing games of “I’m the toughest on drugs” and actually look at the evidence base.

No prison in Australia has been able to prevent drugs getting in, either via resourceful prisoners, their friends and relatives, or in some cases corrupt prison guards.

Harm minimisation is an official government policy that has prevented tens of thousands of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C infections since the introduction of needle and syringe programs into the community.

As part of that federal goverment policy, right now I could access a needle and syringe program if I have a drug addiction. Hepatitis C rate in the general community? 1-2%.

If i’m in prison, I can’t access a needle exchange program. Hepatitis C rates for prison populations? 34% for males, 50-70% for females.

With the average sentence being less than 12 months, we’re effectively taking often violent criminals, putting them in a situation where contracting a potentially fatal virus is highly likely, and then releasing them back into the community.

Thats just my opinion, if you don’t like it, I’ve got others.

TAD TAD 12:41 pm 02 Aug 07

I say stuff them. The new prison is too much of a care bear facility as it is.

What’s next? The provision of condoms to sex offenders?

DarkLadyWolfMother DarkLadyWolfMother 12:38 pm 02 Aug 07

Good luck to them.

I don’t think it will work, but I do wish them all the luck in the world.

josh josh 12:22 pm 02 Aug 07

I completely agree with not having the needles, too. I mean, where do you draw the line? The line gets pretty blurred.

The commenter above me (jr) summed up most of my views.. And I can pretty much predict the responses, but Your Opinion Is Wrong ™.

I kid.

Anyway, about time they made a strong decision for once, instead of caving in to the “humane” (*cough*) option. Colour me marginally impressed.

jr jr 12:03 pm 02 Aug 07

I fully agree with the hard line stand on no syringes stance in prisons.

If there are drugs in the prison system it implies that the prison management is corrupt and turning a blind eye to drugs entering the system – a fundamental problem itself.

Furthermore if individuals are stupid enough to attempt injecting themselves with “substances” other than drugs (e.g. cleaning fluids etc) in order to get a “high” providing a syringe to do so does nothing to make it safer for them – in fact it will have the opposite effect of further encouraging them.

Whilst there are the problems inherent with blood-borne diseases, provision of a syringes doesn’t stop them from doing stupid things like sharing those syringes. The only effective counter measure is education on the dangers and common sense (probably not something individuals have if they have ended up in prision in the first place).

No matter what you do inmates will always come up with ingenious solutions to achieve various ends. I came across the following article which illustrates a point on the on the gizmodo web site: http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2007/07/prisoners_use_n64_rumble_packs.html

pierce pierce 11:24 am 02 Aug 07

As intelligent and well trained as the prison staff may well be, they are going to be dealing with a population of people whose chosen career path revolves around moving illicit substances in an undetectable way.

As laudable as the goal of getting people off drugs may well be, the cold hard light of reality says that preventing the transmission of serious diseases should be taken seriously and sticking your fingers in your ears and crying “La la la, no illegal drugs here so no need for clean syringes” seems like a bad idea designed solely for the laura norder crew.

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