Pubdate: Tue, 23 Jan 2007
Source: Australian, The (Australia)
Copyright: 2007sThe Australian
Author: Tony Koch
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Methadone)


HEROIN substitutes and clean syringes should be provided to prisoners 
to combat disease and corruption in jails, a coronial inquest into 
the overdose of a murderer has recommended.  Prisons Minister Judy 
Spence yesterday rejected the recommendation of Queensland Coroner 
Michael Barnes, who delivered his findings into the death in his cell 
from a heroin overdose of Darren Michael Fitzgerald on June 13, 2004.

Ms Spence said the Government would not be handing out syringes in 
jails, and said there were no plans to extend the methadone program 
beyond the two in women's prisons in Brisbane and Townsville.

Mr Barnes found a significant number of prisoners had blood-borne 
viruses and many injected drugs, and were offered only counselling to 
beat their habit.

"Even those whose callousness might permit them to conclude prisoners 
do not deserve such consideration cannot ignore the risk that 
prisoners on release will infect family and others with diseases they 
have acquired in prison as a result of the department's refusal to 
allow access to syringes," he said.

"Nor can security be validly raised as an objection. Automatically 
retracting needles are available and in any event there are currently 
clearly numerous needles circulating in the prison system, and none 
have been used as weapons.

"In view of the inability of the Department of Corrective Services to 
keep prisons drug-free, and in recognition of its obligation to 
minimise the spread of blood-borne viruses among the prison 
population and those with whom prisoners will come in contact after 
release, I recommend that prisoners be given access to clean syringes."

His other recommendation was that "as a matter of urgency, the 
department establish opioid dependence pharmacotherapy programs 
utilising methadone and buprenorphine".

A Queensland prisons spokesman said NSW was the only state offering a 
comprehensive methadone program - with over 1000 participants. No 
states offer a needle or syringe exchange program.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman