Pubdate: Fri, 19 Nov 2004
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2004 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: John Ward, Canadian Press
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


It Would Reduce Disease, Ombudsman Says

OTTAWA - The federal prisons ombudsman says Public Safety Minister
Anne McLellan should order the establishment of needle exchange
programs in penitentiaries.

Howard Sapers, officially known as the correctional investigator, said
in his annual report yesterday that the Correctional Service of Canada
has ignored such recommendations for years.

Sapers turned directly to McLellan this year.

He said drug use is rampant in prisons -- in some places
three-quarters of inmates inject drugs -- and clean-needle programs
would reduce the spread of diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV.

"It's not a question of whether we condone it or not condone it," he

Since infected inmates eventually get released into the community,
"this is a public health issue." He said similar programs in other
countries have reduced the spread of disease and shown that giving
needles to inmates doesn't mean they'll be used as weapons against

Conservative MP Kevin Sorenson said the prison system supposedly has a
zero-tolerance policy on drug use, yet is faced with the idea of
providing clean needles.

He said he hopes the government takes into account the concerns of the
guards. "Some corrections officers need gloves to avoid needle sticks
while going through searches."

Sapers commended the correctional service on setting up a pilot
program to provide safe tattoos to prisoners. Primitive tattooing
apparatus can also spread disease.

His report also said McLellan should order the correctional service to
appoint a deputy commissioner for aboriginal inmates and to change a
policy that automatically makes prisoners sentenced to life serve
their first two years in maximum security, regardless of the risk they

Finally, Sapers asked McLellan to get the prison system to issue a
formal response to recommendations of a report almost 10 years ago by
Justice Louise Arbour. She produced the report after a confrontation
in Kingston's infamous prison for women in which male guards forcibly
subdued female inmates.

"Canadians expect a system that provides safe, humane custody which is
respectful of human rights and supports the offenders' successful
reintegration into society," Sapers said.

A spokesman for McLellan said the recommendations will be studied and
she will respond in writing later.
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