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.
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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.