An Ontario court will hear a constitutional challenge on Dec. 9, 2019 to the federal ban on needles for drug-using prisoners. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Federal govt’s refusal to provide clean needles in prison to be challenged today

TORONTO — An Ontario court is set to hear today a constitutional challenge to the federal ban on needles for drug-using prisoners.

The case, launched in 2012 by former prisoner Steven Simons, argues the current rules violate inmates’ rights and expose them to serious blood-borne diseases.

Several HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations are also involved in the challenge, saying the federal government must meet its legal obligation to protect the health of people in prison.

The government has argued in court filings that giving clean drug-injection needles to prisoners would make federal facilities more dangerous, since syringes could be used as weapons.

The Correctional Service last year launched a program that offers inmates in some facilities access to sterile equipment.

But court filings say the program is currently only available in a handful of Canada’s 43 federal prisons.

Applicants in the court challenge are also expected to argue that the program infringes on prisoners’ rights due to its lack of confidentiality.

A rally in support of harm reduction in prisons is also scheduled this morning outside the Toronto courthouse.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2019.

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