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.
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
MARGARET MUNRO, CanWest News Service
AIDS researchers are calling on the Correctional Service
to make sterile syringes freely available in prisons for
pilot studies to try to curb the spread of HIV among
The risk of contracting the virus is associated with
researchers from the British Columbia Centre for
Excellence in HIV/AIDS write in the journal Lancet
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
and elsewhere that prisons are incubators for the
"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.
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
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
The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, an advocacy group,
has been pushing for years for needle exchanges in
Canadian prisons. Corrections
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.
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.
November 22, 2005
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
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
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
or the provision of bleach tablets as these tacitly
Brady, Security Editor