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Prison needle exchange to be pushed ahead

By johnboy - 15 August 2012 92

There’s no media release yet available to the likes of us, but the ABC has the word a needle exchange at the Alexander Maconochie Centre is going to be trialled.

(Bear in mind that in the ACT a “trial” is not about testing the idea, it’s about testing the implentation.)

The decision is part of a new health strategy to tackle blood-borne viruses at the jail.

Last year a report to the Government recommended an exchange but the union for prison guards has been staunchly opposed, raising safety concerns.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher has outlined her strategy to a health conference.


UPDATE 15/08/12 10:22: The Health Directorate has now published a draft framework for management of blood-borne viruses.


UPDATE 15/08/12 11:27: The Greens have expressed their joy:

ACT Greens Health and Corrections spokesperson Amanda Bresnan has today welcomed the Government’s decision to introduce a needle and syringe program (NSP) at the AMC.

The ACT Greens have campaigned for an NSP to be established since the opening of Canberra’s prison and published a discussion paper in 2010 outlining evidence from overseas prisons with NSPs.

“This is something the Greens have been calling for over a number of years and we are very pleased that the Government is now also supporting this. It is a win for evidence-based policy over using this issue as a political football,” Ms Bresnan said today.


UPDATE 15/08/12 12:30: The CPSU is a bit concerned:

“It is important to note that the Government is not proposing a full needle and syringe exchange program, but wants to trial a ‘one-for-one’ medical model which would see doctors, not politicians, as the decision makers.

“We are keen to find out more about this approach and will work with the relevant Government agencies to examine the full implications for prison staff, inmates and the broader community.

“While the CPSU has an open mind on these new proposals, we also have an obligation to ensure that any new measures address our members’ long-standing and well-documented health and safety concerns around a needle exchange program.


UPDATE 15/08/12 13:02: The Liberals’ Jeremy Hanson is reflexively agin’ it:

Katy Gallagher’s announcement today that she will establish a needle exchange at the ACT jail gives Canberrans a clear choice at the upcoming election in October. A vote for Labor or the Greens is a vote for a needle exchange at the jail and only a vote for the Canberra Liberals will prevent this flawed policy, according to ACT Shadow Health and Corrections Minister Jeremy Hanson.

“The Government?s own report found that a needle exchange will lead to the “quasilegalisation of drug use within the correctional centre? (Hamburger Report 12.1) and this is now a major point of difference between the parties as we go into the election,” Mr Hanson said.


UPDATE 15/08/12 17:29: The Chief Minister’s release is now online:

“By halting the spread of blood borne viruses in the AMC we stop them spreading further in the community when prisoners are released and go back to their family and friends,” the Chief Minister said.

“Stopping blood borne viruses spreading in the AMC ensures the health services we have in the wider community are consistently applied.”

The strategy covers educating prisoners about the spread of blood borne viruses, steps to cut off the supply of drugs in the prison, treatment and screening, and provides access to needle and syringe programs, which have been proven to be successful in the wider community, on a trial basis.


UPDATE 16/08/12 09:48: The Chief Minister has blogged the audio of her speech on this subject.

What’s Your opinion?


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92 Responses to
Prison needle exchange to be pushed ahead
johnboy 5:31 pm 15 Aug 12

CM Media Release now available.

Beau Locks 3:42 pm 15 Aug 12

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

Deref said :

The “needle exchange” program is just that – an exchange program. That means that you give an old one back and get a new one in return. So this won’t introduce any new needles into the prison, just replace existing ones. Is that right? If so, how does that put guards at any more risk than they are currently.

This is a good point, but how do prisoners get there ‘first’ needle, the one that they will exchange later? Can they rock up to the counter and say “hey, noob here, need a needle”, or “wanna start shooting up, can I get a needle please”.

Just a logistics question…?

It is a good question. I’m not an expert on this part of things, although I’ve talked at length on the subject to someone that is. My understanding is that there are different ways around it. One is to have vending machines that will give each prisoner their first needle and thereafter only give a new needle if an old one has been deposited. Another is to involve health professionals in the jail. Another is to effectively introduce a safe injecting room (i.e. no kosher needles anywhere else in the jail). I’m not sure which is the best option, although I understand that the latter was the one proposed by Michael Moore in his report on AMC.

bundah 3:39 pm 15 Aug 12

Given that it’s quite obvious that illegal drugs and needles already exist in prisons and no one is serious about addressing this unacceptable situation primarily because corruption would cost gazillions to eradicate and guvments don’t want to spend the money then what the hell,as much as i detest the notion, make it all freely available!

Henry82 3:24 pm 15 Aug 12

kind of concerns me that needles can be exchanged within a prison system. At the same time, if i was a guard, I’d rather be stabbed with a sterile syringe, than a dirty one.

Undecided on this

VYBerlinaV8_is_back 3:23 pm 15 Aug 12

Deref said :

The “needle exchange” program is just that – an exchange program. That means that you give an old one back and get a new one in return. So this won’t introduce any new needles into the prison, just replace existing ones. Is that right? If so, how does that put guards at any more risk than they are currently.

This is a good point, but how do prisoners get there ‘first’ needle, the one that they will exchange later? Can they rock up to the counter and say “hey, noob here, need a needle”, or “wanna start shooting up, can I get a needle please”.

Just a logistics question…?

Beau Locks 3:13 pm 15 Aug 12

Proboscus: there are already drugs in the prison. There is absolutely nothing that anyone can do to prevent this. Thinking you can is pure fantasy. There are already fits in the prison. Having used ones replaced with clean ones means less spread of HIV/Hep C amongst a population of people that will have to be treated whether they’re inside or out. Even if you don’t think they deserve to be treated, it may surprise you that people who are or have been in jail are actually capable of spreading disease into the ‘normal’ population of people that don’t have anything whatsoever to do with the criminal justice system. Moving around populations of people is kind of what viruses do.

The reason that Australia was the envy of public health officials the world over in the 80s and 90s in terms of our HIV rates was precisely because there was a bi-partisan commitment to condoms and needle exchange in the 80s. That’s why it didn’t spread to the ‘normal’ population like it did elsewhere, thusly costing us all collectively a lot of money, and, more importantly, unnecessarily killing people.

You may recall that neither of these moves were popular at the time in many circles (mainly amongst people unwilling to look past their own preconceptions and at the facts, loud and clear as they were). Nonetheless, with the benefit of hindsight it’s pretty much universally agreed that this was a pretty sensible course of action. Indeed, it was really the last time that both the major parties worked so constructively on policy development together, but that’s another story.

In terms of police and prison guards having to deal with the decisions of dickheads that aren’t on the front line, you’re making an assumption that people making these decisions don’t have direct experience or aren’t being informed by direct experience. That’s what research is for. Clever stuff.

Finally, if your primary concern is for the screws, I should like to point out that the international evidence in this particular shows that prison officers are at reduced risk of harm, not greater.

dpm 3:06 pm 15 Aug 12

johnboy said :

Given that at the probability that *some* of the guards are the ones currently commanding premium prices selling drugs and needles to the prisoners they’re a tough constitituency to rely on.

Ooooooh! So cynical!!

Personally, I just love reading the fluff in the ‘framework’!

Here’s a classic mouthful:
“The Framework sits within the broader context of the ACT Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Strategy
2010 – 2014 and within the HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, Sexually Transmissible Infection: A Strategic
Framework for the ACT 2007-2012. The Framework also operates in conjunction with the Drug
Policies and Services Framework for the Alexander Maconochie Centre 2012-2014 (Draft).
The Framework is underpinned by the human rights principles outlined in the ACT Human Rights Act
2004.”

Extra points for ‘enshrined’:
“In particular, The Strategic Framework for the Management of BBV in the AMC 2012-2014 is set in
the context of the harm minimisation that characterises Australia’s approach to drug use, which is
enshrined in the National Drug Strategy 2010-2015.”

And it’s great that there is something related to needle exchange programs (well, mgt of BBVs) in the ‘ACT Multicultural Strategy’, ‘Canberra Social Plan’ and ‘ACT Young People’s Plan 2009-2014’?! :

“Strategies, plans and legislation informing the policy context for the Framework
The Framework strives to balance consistency with the national strategies, whilst enabling a
coordinated and locally relevant response.
ACT Strategies
• ACT Human Rights Act 2004
• ACT Multicultural Strategy
• The Canberra Social Plan
• ACT Young People’s Plan 2009-2014”

If things are kept ‘high level’ enough, you can link them to anything! I love frameworks! 🙂

It’ll be interesting to see the overall public view of this. Looking at the CT website comments, ther’s a lot of naysayers…
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/needle-exchange-trial-to-go-ahead-at-canberra-jail-20120815-247l0.html

johnboy 2:49 pm 15 Aug 12

Given that at the probability that *some* of the guards are the ones currently commanding premium prices selling drugs and needles to the prisoners they’re a tough constitituency to rely on.

colourful sydney rac 2:43 pm 15 Aug 12

Mr Gillespie said :

GET OUT OF MY WAY, I’M A TOOL

Deref 2:39 pm 15 Aug 12

Proboscus said :

Beau Locks said :

About time. This is such a no brainer, and I wonder if CPSU have only been carrying on such a treat because they dug themselves into such a ‘no needle exchange’ hole that they would look (or at least feel) like total numpties if they changed their tune on the subject. To keep referring to one prison officer that contracted HIV years ago as a reason not to introduce an NSP at AMC is a nonsense. It does nothing to bolster their case, considering that the bloke would have been less likely to contract a blood borne nasty if there were clean fits in the joint.

Hats orf to the ACT Gubment for taking an evidence-based approach to the issue.

Are you f***ing retarded? The only people who want needles in the gaol either don’t work there or are drug addled prisoners. It’s easy to sit behind your desk and think that the only danger you’re in is from a paper cut.

Police and prison guards should not have to put up with decisions of d***heads who are not on the frontline.

So let me see if I understand…

The “needle exchange” program is just that – an exchange program. That means that you give an old one back and get a new one in return. So this won’t introduce any new needles into the prison, just replace existing ones. Is that right? If so, how does that put guards at any more risk than they are currently.

Mysteryman 2:38 pm 15 Aug 12

Proboscus said :

Beau Locks said :

About time. This is such a no brainer, and I wonder if CPSU have only been carrying on such a treat because they dug themselves into such a ‘no needle exchange’ hole that they would look (or at least feel) like total numpties if they changed their tune on the subject. To keep referring to one prison officer that contracted HIV years ago as a reason not to introduce an NSP at AMC is a nonsense. It does nothing to bolster their case, considering that the bloke would have been less likely to contract a blood borne nasty if there were clean fits in the joint.

Hats orf to the ACT Gubment for taking an evidence-based approach to the issue.

Are you f***ing retarded? The only people who want needles in the gaol either don’t work there or are drug addled prisoners. It’s easy to sit behind your desk and think that the only danger you’re in is from a paper cut.

Police and prison guards should not have to put up with decisions of d***heads who are not on the frontline.

I would like to hear from the guards on this issue. I would think they are against the idea, but who knows.

johnboy 2:34 pm 15 Aug 12

I’m sure Zed will be thrilled by your creepy endorsement and it will help him swing many other votes.

Mr Gillespie 2:32 pm 15 Aug 12

There you go, another reason why I have made up my mind about who I am voting for at the ACT election.

See, it’s not just the shopping bags issue.

Proboscus 2:28 pm 15 Aug 12

Beau Locks said :

About time. This is such a no brainer, and I wonder if CPSU have only been carrying on such a treat because they dug themselves into such a ‘no needle exchange’ hole that they would look (or at least feel) like total numpties if they changed their tune on the subject. To keep referring to one prison officer that contracted HIV years ago as a reason not to introduce an NSP at AMC is a nonsense. It does nothing to bolster their case, considering that the bloke would have been less likely to contract a blood borne nasty if there were clean fits in the joint.

Hats orf to the ACT Gubment for taking an evidence-based approach to the issue.

Are you f***ing retarded? The only people who want needles in the gaol either don’t work there or are drug addled prisoners. It’s easy to sit behind your desk and think that the only danger you’re in is from a paper cut.

Police and prison guards should not have to put up with decisions of d***heads who are not on the frontline.

Beau Locks 1:57 pm 15 Aug 12

About time. This is such a no brainer, and I wonder if CPSU have only been carrying on such a treat because they dug themselves into such a ‘no needle exchange’ hole that they would look (or at least feel) like total numpties if they changed their tune on the subject. To keep referring to one prison officer that contracted HIV years ago as a reason not to introduce an NSP at AMC is a nonsense. It does nothing to bolster their case, considering that the bloke would have been less likely to contract a blood borne nasty if there were clean fits in the joint.

Hats orf to the ACT Gubment for taking an evidence-based approach to the issue.

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