Pubdate: Thu, 28 Oct 2004
Source: Ottawa Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004, Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Kathleen Harris, Parliamentary Bureau
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan is open to the idea of
needle-swap programs to combat the spread of blood-borne diseases in
Canada's drug-infested prisons. Pressed yesterday by a line-up of
medical, legal and inmate support groups to establish a pilot needle
exchange within 18 months, McLellan said it's too soon to make a
decision. Correctional Service of Canada officials will work with the
federal public health agency to hammer out a proposal to tackle the
epidemic of HIV/AIDS and Hep C behind bars.


"I think we have to deal in a world of realism in terms of our
penitentiaries and our prisons," she said. "Obviously there is a
challenge to control infection of whatever kind. There's no point
sticking one's head in the sand and saying there are not infections
and infections being spread in prisons by whatever means."

Sylvain Martel, national president of the Union of Canadian
Correctional Officers, called needle exchange a "Band-aid solution"
that flies in the face of CSC's zero-tolerance policy on drugs. About
15 guards have been stabbed or pricked with needles in the last two
years, but privacy rights of the prisoner prevent the victim employee
having access of the inmate's medical history.
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