Pubdate: Thu, 22 May 2003
Source: Kingston Whig-Standard (CN ON)
Copyright: 2003 The Kingston Whig-Standard
Author: Greg McArthur
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)
Bookmark: (Incarceration)


Local News - A needle exchange program in Canada's prisons will add another
weapon to the arsenal of devices that inmates use to wound and intimidate
prison guards, says the regional president of the correctional officers

Jason Godin said the union is worried about recent comments made by two
prison health care experts, who publicly supported a program for inmates to
exchange their dirty needles for clean needles.

"We will fight this tooth and nail if [the Correctional Service of Canada]
decides to implement this," he said.

Last week, Dr. Peter Ford called for a national public debate about the
spread of hepatitis C among federal inmates in an article published in The

Ford - a consultant to the Correctional Service who conducted two landmark
studies of intravenous drug users in two area prisons - said a needle
exchange program would stanch the spread of hepatitis C because drug addicts
wouldn't share the few needles that are snuck inside prison walls.

Inmates are prohibited from having needles in federal institutions and the
Correctional Service has a zero-tolerance policy on illegal drugs.

Dr. Jonathan Standley, the head physician at Millhaven Institution, also
supported the idea of a needle exchange program in a Whig article published

The head of health care for the Correctional Service could not be reached to
comment on the recommendation.

The doctors have the health of their patients in mind, but don't recognize
the dangers that guards would face if needles were allowed to proliferate in
prisons, Godin said.

In the past two years, two local guards have been stabbed with needles,
Godin said.

Another guard at Kingston Penitentiary was dragged into a shower by inmates
who tried to beat him.

After the attempted attack, it was discovered that needles were taped to the
bottom of a bench. Godin said the needles were placed there so the attackers
could stab the guard.

Godin said he didn't know of any incidents where a guard had been stabbed
and contracted a virus as a result.

But whenever a guard is stabbed he or she has to be treated with a
precautionary cocktail of drugs that can help prevent an HIV or hepatitis C
infection, Godin said.

"It's a terrible ordeal," said Godin, who said the harsh side-effects can
leave someone weak and bed-ridden for weeks.

"It puts a hell of a strain on their home life, their personal life and
their mental well being."

Stopping the flow of illegal drugs into prisons is difficult, even with the
zero-tolerance policy, Godin said.

The ion scanners that guards use on visitors are fairly effective, but they
can't detect drugs that are hidden in body cavities, he said.

If a needle-exchange program were introduced, drug use would be even harder
to get a handle on, he said.

"The bottom line is, even one needle is too many."
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