EVIDENCE MOUNTS THAT A NEEDLE & SYRINGE PROGRAM MUST BE PART OF OUR RESPONSE TO DRUGS IN CANBERRA’S PRISON

Media Release: 9 March 2018

The inclusion of the recommendation to introduce a needle and syringe program (NSP) within Canberra’s prison in the ACT Health Service Commissioner’s review of the opioid replacement treatment program at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) released today has been welcomed by Hepatitis ACT.

“This review continues to build the picture of the pattern of drug use within the prison and continues to point to the need for the full suite of strategies to reduce the harms associated with drug use in AMC. If we are serious about reducing the harms arising from drug use within AMC, this must include access to a regulated NSP,” said Hepatitis ACT’s interim Executive Officer Rebecca Vassarotti.

“Findings contained in the review include the fact that there is a culture of drug seeking within the prison. This further strengthens the evidence that illicit drugs are being accessed in the prison, and like in the rest of the community, a regulated NSP within the prison would reduce harms associated with injecting drug use, and protect health of detainees while in the prison.”

“There have been great strides made within AMC to reduce the rates of Hepatitis C and other infections through access to testing and treatment. However, we know that these efforts are being undermined by the fact that proven initiatives such as an NSP cannot currently be provided within the prison.”

“It’s important to acknowledge the fears and concerns of custodial staff, who have to date sought to block the introduction of this proven harm reduction strategy. This must however be tempered by the evidence that NSPs in prisons are both safe for staff and feasible, and constitute an important part of broader strategies to combat the spread of HIV, Hepatitis and other blood borne viruses.”

“Hepatitis ACT hopes that this review will provide an opportunity to re-open the discussion about an NSP in AMC and enables the AMC to fulfil its promise of being a human rights compliant facility,” Ms Vassarotti concluded.

MEDIA CONTACT: Rebecca Vassarotti, Interim Executive Officer, Hepatitis ACT, 0402 545 640