Prison needle use should be supervised to ensure safety, guards say

There have been no reported assaults involving needles since the program began in Drumheller

Setting up supervised injection sites at federal institutions is the way to go if the Correctional Service plans to continue making needles available to drug-using inmates, prison guards say.

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers says one such injection site at Drumheller Institution in Alberta is proving a safer alternative to the service’s needle-exchange program, operating at seven federal prisons.

The Correctional Service considers both initiatives important elements of the effort to limit transmission of hepatitis C and HIV in institutions. It has long tried to keep drugs from entering prisons, but recognizes that contraband finds its way to inmates.

ALSO READ: Health care key to prevent women from returning to prison, study says

The union opposes making needles available to inmates at all, citing the risk of being pricked accidentally or on purpose.

But it says if the prison service wants to continue distributing needles, then the injection site, known as an overdose prevention service, should be the model. It involves giving inmates access to needles so they can use them in a supervised setting with nursing staff.

The needle-exchange program, introduced last year, provides injection kits that eligible inmates can use in their cells.

The prison service does a risk assessment to evaluate security concerns before approving an inmate for the program. To date, there have been 63 applications, of which 10 were rejected, said Veronique Rioux, a Correctional Service spokeswoman.

Correctional officers have seen inmates in the program share needles with others, said Jeff Wilkins, national president of the union.

“When you put the needle in an inmate’s cell and they’re sharing it with Johnny across the range, then obviously that spreads infectious disease,” he said.

In one case, the union says, a needle was discovered in another inmate’s cell. In another case, a needle was missing from a cell.

Safety and security are priorities for the Correctional Service, said Rioux. Appropriate safeguards ensure injection kits are safely stored and accounted for at all times, she said.

Each kit and its contents are visually inspected daily and will be seized if they appear to be altered or any of the contents cannot be unaccounted for, or are seen outside of the kit, Rioux said. Infractions could result in reassessment of an inmate’s eligibility for the program and institutional disciplinary measures.

“Since program implementation, no needles have gone missing,” Rioux said. “When needles have not been stored in the approved location, staff recovered the needle and the participant was removed from the program.”

There have been no reported assaults involving needles since the program began, she added.

The Drumheller prevention site, established in June, has been used more than 300 times by 23 users without incident, according to statistics collected by the union.

“The only really safe option is the overdose prevention site,” Wilkins said.

The union has been told the prison service will introduce more needle-exchange programs before the end of the year at two more institutions — one in British Columbia, the other in New Brunswick — as well as an overdose prevention service at Springhill Institution in Nova Scotia.

Wilkins suspects the cost of providing the prevention services means the prison service sees needle-exchange programs as the preferred model.

“I know that they don’t have the extra money to keep rolling out overdose prevention sites, but that’s something that whatever government is elected is going to have to think about.”

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Maple Ridge mom wants justice on two-year anniversary of daughter’s death

Megan Kinnee, 19, died July 13, 2018 after motorcycle crash in Abbotsford

Maple Ridge neighbourhood rallies together for Saturday garage sale

Event aimed to bring Albion residents together – but not too close – while the financially strapped

Farmers market returns to downtown Maple Ridge

Next Saturday, July 18 people can shop at the newly reconfigured market in Memorial Peace Park

Ridge Meadows RCMP catch three more impaired drivers overnight

Local Mounties served 80 impaired driving infractions in June

Cocooning pays dividends for local environmental group

A butterfly adoption program helps keep the Alouette River Management Society in Maple Ridge afloat

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

Man shot dead in east Abbotsford suburbs

Integrated Homicide Investigative Team called to investigate

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

NHL’s Canadian hubs offer little economic benefit, but morale boost is valuable: experts

Games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play

‘Made in the Cowichan Valley’ coming to a wine bottle near you

Cowichan Valley has the honour of being the first sub-GI outside of the Okanagan

VIDEO: Vancouver Island cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

Most Read