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Two Approaches to Drug Addiction in Prisions

As Canada considers giving inmates sharp and potential deadly needles to prison inmates who inject drugs in an attempt to curb the spread of HIV and other infectious diseases, Ireland is emphasizing drug addiction treatment, inmate drug testing and tougher security to stop drug smuggling. 

The Gazette [Montreal, Canada]
November 25, 2005 Friday
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. A10


AIDS researchers urge prisons to supply sterile syringes: Needle exchanges would help curb rampant spread of HIV virus among drug-using inmates, they say

BY MARGARET MUNRO, CanWest News Service
DATELINE: TORONTO


AIDS researchers are calling on the Correctional Service of Canada to make sterile syringes freely available in prisons for pilot studies to try to curb the spread of HIV among drug-using inmates.

The risk of contracting the virus is associated with imprisonment from Thailand to Canada, researchers from the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS write in the journal Lancet today.

They say the problem is made worse because accepted disease-prevention methods, such as needle exchanges, are rarely available to inmates.

"There is an urgent need to ensure that standards of HIV prevention in prisons are consistent with the best available evidence and the standards outlined in international guidelines," say the researchers.

Co-author Thomas Kerr said in an interview that the fastest growing HIV epidemic in many parts of the world is among intravenous drug users, who are frequently in and out of prison. And there is mounting evidence from Canada and elsewhere that prisons are incubators for the disease.

"We have found evidence locally, which is consistent with what people have found in other countries, that incarceration is associated with HIV infection, that drug use occurs in prisons and a lot of high-risk behaviour such as syringe exchange happens," Kerr said. "It's a very dangerous dynamic."

Inmates interviewed for a recent study by B.C. HIV researchers reported seeing syringes go through more than 30 people's hands.

Corrections Canada is well aware it has a problem. And it is taking steps to prevent the spread of infection by providing inmates with condoms and sterile tattooing equipment and drug treatment.

But Kerr said more needs to be done, such as pilot projects to assess the use of needle exchanges behind prison walls. Needle exchanges, which make sterile syringes available to intravenous drug users, are widely used to prevent the spread of HIV in city and community settings.

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, an advocacy group, has been pushing for years for needle exchanges in Canadian prisons. Corrections Canada is exploring the idea and has asked the Public Health Agency of Canada for input, said Christa McGregor, a media officer with CSC.

The health agency is reviewing evidence on the effectiveness of needle exchanges and visiting foreign prisons that already provide inmates with syringes.

McGregor stressed CSC takes elaborate measures to keep drugs out of prison, but says they continue to get in.

"Every correctional system in the world has a problem with drugs in prison," she said.

Corrections Canada may be open to the idea of providing sterile needles to inmates, but McGregor says there is no discussion about providing the illicit drugs to go with them.

The HIV rate among federal inmates is 10 times higher than in the general population, and hepatitis C is 30 times higher, McGregor said.

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Irish Independent [Ireland]
November 22, 2005
http://www.unison.ie/irish_independent/stories.php3?ca=9&si=1511167&issue_id=13308

EARLY RELEASE OPTION FOR DRUG ADDICTS WHO KICK HABIT

DRUG addicts will be allowed to walk free from prison early if they can kick their habit behind bars.

The move is part of a campaign by Justice Minister Michael McDowell to stamp out drugs in prisons.

Sniffer dog units to carry out regular cell searches are also planned. There will also be tougher security on visits to prevent smuggling, mandatory drug testing for inmates, and an expansion of detox and methadone maintenance programmes.

The minister was addressing a prison governors' seminar in Portlaoise yesterday.

Under proposals he is bringing to the Cabinet for approval shortly, he is recommending new statutory sentencing powers to provide an incentive to offenders to stay away from crime.

The courts will have power to fully or partially suspend sentences, subject to certain conditions such as attending drug or other substance abuse treatment or a rehabilitation course for sex offenders or agreeing to come under the supervision of the Probation and Welfare Service.

He is also proposing that where a fine and a jail sentence are considered appropriate, the courts can impose the fine but defer the custodial sentence to assess if the offender will stay away from crime.

The courts will be given the power for certain minor crimes to order electronic monitoring.

But a monitoring order can only be imposed with the agreement of the convicted person.

Although he said he would be expanding the existing treatment programmes he warned he was totally opposed to needle exchange
or the provision of bleach tablets as these tacitly condoned drug-taking.

Tom Brady, Security Editor