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

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

OTTAWA — 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.

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.”

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

Just Posted

(Red Deer Advocate file photo)
Sentencing delayed in the stabbing death of Samantha Sharpe, of Sunchild First Nation. (Red Deer Advocate file photo)
Red Deerians woke up to snow Tuesday. This snowplow was working its way up 32nd Street. Plows and sanders were tackling hills, bridges and arterial routes first. Advocate staff photo
City of Red Deer plows moving to grey routes Friday

Residents do not need to move vehicles

Alert logo
Camrose man arrested on child porn charges

A 20-year-old from Camrose man is facing charges for allegedly distributing child… Continue reading

Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand and Major General Dany Fortin look on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Pfizer-BioNTech cutting back vaccine deliveries to Canada due to production issues

OTTAWA — Procurement Minister Anita Anand says production issues in Europe will… Continue reading

A stainless steel monolith is set up along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, in a Jan. 15, 2021 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Alberta monolith comes with message to save eastern slopes of Rocky Mountains

Installed it with the help of volunteers after getting permission from private landowners

Lesser Slave Lake UCP MLA Pat Rehn. (Facebook)
Updated: Jason Kenney kicks Lesser Slave Lake MLA out of caucus

Pat Rehn will not be permitted to run for UCP nominations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials says it will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

letter
Coal mining a concern

Thank you for the Canadian Press article in the Advocate on Jan.… Continue reading

In this photo taken from a video distributed by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020, A Russian Tu-160 strategic bomber fires a cruise missile at test targets, during a military drills, Russia. The Russian military has conducted sweeping drills of its strategic nuclear forces that featured several practice missile launches. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)
Russia follows US to withdraw from Open Skies Treaty

U.S. completed its withdrawal from the pact in November

FILE - In this July 26, 2019, file photo, China’s Sun Yang leaves the pool deck following the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay heats at the World Swimming Championships in Gwangju, South Korea. The World Anti-Doping Agency says a Swiss court has overturned an eight-year doping ban against Chinese swimmer Sun Yang and ordered the case back to the Court of Arbitration for Sport for a second time but with a different chairman of the judges. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)
Swiss supreme court details anti-China bias of Sun judge

Hostile social media posts by Court of Arbitration for Sport judge Franco Frattini

FILE - In this Saturday, March 7, 2020, file photo, Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba passes the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings in Los Angeles. Bonding between veterans and youngsters has been a time-honored tradition in hockey. But in yet another setback related to the relentless COVID-19, NHL protocols aiming to curb the virus spread and keep the schedule on track could make that vital off-ice development of camaraderie more difficult. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
Mentors wanted: Virus limits vet-rookie time away from rink

Bonding between veterans and youngsters has been a time-honoured tradition

FILE - In this Jan. 30, 2020 file photo, NFL Super Bowl 54 football game halftime performer Jennifer Lopez answers questions at a news conference in Miami. Lopez will give a musical performance on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol when Biden is sworn in as the nation’s 46th president next Wednesday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Stars return to inauguration, with J.Lo, Gaga set to perform

Foo Fighters, John Legend and Bruce Springsteen will offer remote performances

An example of a child’s artwork during the COVID-19 pandemic is shown in a handout. Many of the children’s drawings show people alone, haunted by shadowy spectres, or worse, their own thoughts.The researcher behind the childart.ca project says the virtual gallery of illustrations by Canadian kids and teenagers showcases a wide variety of visions of the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-childart.ca
‘This is too much’: Art shows children’s struggles during pandemic, says researcher

Recurring themes include confined figures, screaming faces and gory imagery

blessing
Bentley Blessing Pantry continues to faithfully serve the community

‘We just wanted to make everyone aware that we are still here to serve you throughout this coming year.’

Most Read