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Advocating For Prison Needle Exchange Programs

1157 words - 5 pages

Target Population
• Population: Inmates in Canadian Federal Prisons (incarceration for at least two years) who are IV drug users and currently lack access to sterile injection equipment.
• These individuals are at a higher risk for HIV infection and transmission than the general population despite incarceration in part due to the lack of sterile injecting equipment

Concern Prompting Health Advocacy Initiative
• A part of Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) mandates that imprisoned persons must be provided with essential health care conforming to professional practices.1
• The World Health Organization has released prison standards indicating that incarcerated people are to be ...view middle of the document...

For the general population, needle and syringe exchange programs are readily available in many areas. In fact there are over 150 needle exchange programs across the country. These programs have been shown to be effective with respect to cost and results, and further multiple levels of government support these programs.5 The UN General Assembly has established guidelines for regarding health care for incarcerated persons, a key point being that they have the right to access to care that is equal to that of the general population.6 This is supported by the spirit of the CCRA governing the Canadian Prison system.1 Therefore prisoner’s lack of access to sterile injecting equipment represents a violation of their rights. Needle/Syringe access programs have been implemented in several countries including, but not remotely limited to: Spain, Germany, Switzerland and Iran.7

This issue is not only about the rights of prisoners. As mentioned, a result of this issue is an increased prevalence of HIV among prisoners. These prisoners will eventually be released back into society, putting even more people at risk of HIV acquisition.

Solution to Health Advocacy Concern
• Implement Needle and Syringe Programs (NSPs) in Federal Prisons in a way that is simple and anonymous for incarcerated drug users.
• This would ideally help to reduce needle-sharing practices, and therefore lower risks associated with needle sharing such as HIV infection and transmission.

Estimate the Benefits of the proposed solution
• Substantial reduction in the amount of needle sharing occurring in prisons. 8
• Reduction in the risk of HIV transmission among prisoners.9
• Reduction of drug induced medical incidents, such as overdose.10
• Conforming to guidelines from the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Right on prisoners’ rights to injection materials. 11
• By enabling access to NSPs prisoners may be more inclined to seek drug treatments or rehabilitation with the diminution of the stigma around IV drug use.12

Risks of Proposed Solution
• Potential for needles to be used as weapons against prison staff.
• Potential for prison staff to be accidentally harmed with needles if not properly stored or disposed of by the prisoners.
• Potential for the NSPs to be seen as tacitly endorsing drug use instead of mandating a zero tolerance policy.
• Potential for the access to clean injecting equipment to increase the amount of IV drug use that occurs in prisons.
• Automated needle exchange carries the risk of technology failing and prisoners resorting to sharing needles

Implementation Plan
• Design a needle dispenser capable of accepting...

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