Pubdate: Fri, 05 Nov 2004
Source: Abbotsford Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 The Abbotsford Times
Author: Rick Collins, editor
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


A recent study recommends providing clean needles to drug addicts 
incarcerated in Canadian prisons. The frightening results - published by 
the Ontario Medical Association, in conjunction with the Canadian HIV/AIDS 
Legal Network - of this study shows rates of HIV/AIDS and other 
life-threatening diseases among inmates to be at least 10 times higher than 
in the general population.

And while most are horrified at the thought of giving anything sharp to 
inmates, let alone drug paraphernalia, we concur and must stress that this 
is a health issue affecting the wider community.

Just as study after study proves young teens need access to sex education, 
contraception and abstinence support in order to combat sexually 
transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancy, drug addicts in prison and in 
our community require medical attention - this means clean needles.

Some, including Abbotsford MP Randy White, believe drug addicts should not 
be coddled, that they are criminals engaging in criminal acts, and 
therefore deserve nothing more than a cold, hard cell and a good lock on 
the door.

We wholeheartedly agree that convicted criminals should pay their debt and 
illegal drug use in and outside of prison is wrong and should never be 
condoned. However, Corrections Canada is already spending a great amount of 
its limited resources on trying to stop drugs from getting inside, and like 
all prison systems in the world, it is to no avail.

Despite this, there is one constant; these men and women will be back among 
us. It may not be today, but at some point soon the majority will be 
released. And if they are sick, we too, are sick, for they are our sons and 
daughters, fathers and mothers. Whether we like it or not, their 
shortcomings will come home to roost.

Either we begin to address this problem as the health issue it really is, 
or we continue to keep our heads in the sand and hope these people either 
die or move into some other community when they have paid their debt.

It is high time municipal, provincial and federal politicians address the 
problem in and out of nearby institutions and find real solutions based on 
fact - not on fear.

- - Rick Collins, editor
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