Prison needle exchange to be pushed ahead

johnboy 16 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.


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92 Responses to Prison needle exchange to be pushed ahead
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bigfeet bigfeet 6:34 am 16 Aug 12

How about it is done this way?

Free needles are made available to prisoners however it is also emphasized that drug use is illegal and there will be consequences.

Implement proper random drug testing with each prisoner being tested at least once per week. Any drugs in your system then your sentence is automatically increased by one quarter.

That way the health and safety issues of sharing needles is addressed and it is the prisoners own choice to continue to use drugs, and live with the consequences of those choices.

Mrs_Potato_Head Mrs_Potato_Head 5:09 am 16 Aug 12

Mike Crowther said :

Beau Locks wrote… “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.”

Do you think it was some kind of fkng accident? Geoff Pearce (yes, prison officers have names) was intentionally stabbed by Graham Fowler with a syringe of Fowler’s own HIV infected blood. Do you think if Fowler had had a nice clean human rights approved syringe that he may not have done it??? What planet are you living on? Fowler was angry. He had HIV, time was running out and in his mind, the screws were keeping him inside. Solution: Punish one of them. He wasn’t worried that he’d lose the syringe, or cop a bigger sentence, he was motivated by hate and someone (most probably a well intentioned health worker) gave him the means to do it. As a result a perfectly nice young bloke, which Geoff was, is today mouldering underground instead of enjoying the kids he never got to have.

A cleanliness of syringes is not the issue. They are a weapon, and, if like many of our business owners but none of our M.L.A.’s you’ve ever been confronted with with a blood filled one, an effective one.

But go ahead, give someone who uses a blood filled syringe to rob on the outside the same equipment inside. Its not like will have to deal with them. And please drop this ‘exchange’ bullshit. ‘One of the screws took it Miss’ ‘I put it down and it went missing’ will become the catch cry. And you can’t have a no exchange/no fit policy… they might go and and use a dirty one!! The AMC will be awash with ‘lost’ syringes, set up as booby traps (I personally coped one of those blue-tacked under a sliding bolt) or used in tattoo guns. Let’s see the Hep C rate go down when that happens.

Well said.

I’ve been hearing stories since the place opened how bad it is. Hargreaves moved prisoners into it for political reasons well before it was ready and it has been plagued by problems both administratively and logistically. The place lacks leadership, morale is down and the lunatics are running the asylum. The place ran well for a short time when Buchanan was in charge but that was short lived.

People on this site are saying “just keep the drugs out”. That’s hard to do when management have taken away things like strip searches, don’t punish prisoners for drug related offences within the jail and refuse to hire more dog handlers. Their powers to search visitors and prisoners have been severely restricted by human rights and a new training regime for staff that is aimed at allowing more drugs to get in. It was a dedicated and calculated decision by management to get the NSP into the jail.

Staff have no support anymore – CEO Bernadette Mitcherson abandoned them shortly after she commenced and now the CPSU has abandoned them too by agreeing to a decision made by the ACT Government without consulting it’s members.

How do I know this? I’m married to an officer who comes home after every shift stressed and sometimes in tears. He is taking medication for depression and is undergoing counseling. He is watching his mates gets assaulted by prisoners and seeing the offenders go unpunished. Prison officers are people too. They have rights – including human rights.

So before your heart bleeds for the people who broke the law and are now residing inside the AMC – please think about the law abiding families who are now worried sick about the well being and safety of their loved ones who work there.

Comic_and_Gamer_Nerd Comic_and_Gamer_Nerd 9:49 pm 15 Aug 12

Was there not a report that said there have only been two or three new infections since the prison has been open? Every other infected swine previously had it???

Also, as I understand it, sniffer dogs go over visitors at amc so let’s think, how else ate drugs getting in?

Mike Crowther Mike Crowther 9:24 pm 15 Aug 12

Beau Locks wrote… “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.”

Do you think it was some kind of fkng accident? Geoff Pearce (yes, prison officers have names) was intentionally stabbed by Graham Fowler with a syringe of Fowler’s own HIV infected blood. Do you think if Fowler had had a nice clean human rights approved syringe that he may not have done it??? What planet are you living on? Fowler was angry. He had HIV, time was running out and in his mind, the screws were keeping him inside. Solution: Punish one of them. He wasn’t worried that he’d lose the syringe, or cop a bigger sentence, he was motivated by hate and someone (most probably a well intentioned health worker) gave him the means to do it. As a result a perfectly nice young bloke, which Geoff was, is today mouldering underground instead of enjoying the kids he never got to have. A cleanliness of syringes is not the issue. They are a weapon, and, if like many of our business owners but none of our M.L.A.’s you’ve ever been confronted with with a blood filled one, an effective one. But go ahead, give someone who uses a blood filled syringe to rob on the outside the same equipment inside. Its not like will have to deal with them. And please drop this ‘exchange’ bullshit. ‘One of the screws took it Miss’ ‘I put it down and it went missing’ will become the catch cry. And you can’t have a no exchange/no fit policy… they might go and and use a dirty one!! The AMC will be awash with ‘lost’ syringes, set up as booby traps (I personally coped one of those blue-tacked under a sliding bolt) or used in tattoo guns. Let’s see the Hep C rate go down when that happens.

LSWCHP LSWCHP 7:30 pm 15 Aug 12

Intuitively it’s a crap idea, but I’m happy to see a trial that will collect some evidence on infection rates etc.

If it’s not a crap idea, and increases community wellbeing in the long term then that’s the way to go.

Regardless of whether it’s a good or bad idea, it still shits me that people in the slammer (many of them for drug related crimes) are apparently able to freely access illegal drugs. Somehow, that don’t seem right.

Pork Hunt Pork Hunt 6:05 pm 15 Aug 12

johnboy said :

I suspect after the first couple they might cotton on.

They’re not in there because they’re smart….

Pork Hunt Pork Hunt 5:50 pm 15 Aug 12

Beau Locks said :

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.

If you have a “safe injecting room” you could then simply follow a given convict into said room and relieve them of their ILLEGAL DRUGS and free needle and take them into a “safe solitary confinement environment room”.
Repeat above process until ILLEGAL DRUGS are no longer present inside the prison.
The end.

    johnboy johnboy 5:52 pm 15 Aug 12

    I suspect after the first couple they might cotton on.

johnboy johnboy 5:31 pm 15 Aug 12

CM Media Release now available.

Beau Locks 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 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 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 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 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 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

colourful sydney racing identity colourful sydney racing identity 2:43 pm 15 Aug 12

Mr Gillespie said :

GET OUT OF MY WAY, I’M A TOOL

Deref 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 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 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.

Mr Gillespie 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.

    johnboy 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.

Proboscus 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 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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