PAN has endorsed the statement below, and we share this so others may consider doing so as well.

From the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network:

Three years ago, PAN signed a petition urging governments in Canada to immediately implement needle and syringe programs in prison. The petition acknowledged the overwhelming evidence supporting prison-based needle and syringe programs and called for their implementation to involve meaningful consultation with current and former prisoners and health, harm reduction and human rights experts, as well as ongoing external and independent oversight.

Acknowledging the health benefits of needle and syringe programs in prison, the federal Correctional Service Canada (CSC) announced on May 14th, 2018 that it would implement a “Prison Needle Exchange Program” (PNEP) in two federal prisoners beginning in June 2018 as “the initial stage of a phased approach” — with plans to gradually introduce the program in all federal prisons.

This was a welcome announcement, but our work is not done. Details of the PNEP reveal serious deficiencies that are not in keeping with public health principles or professionally-accepted standards for such programs. Most fundamentally, CSC’s PNEP violates prisoners’ confidentiality at many points without reasonable justification. These breaches of confidentiality run contrary to standards of medical ethics and conduct, public health principles, and the international experience of effective prison-based needle and syringe programs. There is no working program in the world that uses the approach adopted by CSC, which will operate as a very strong barrier to access. There is no justification for this approach.

At the same time, correctional officers across Canada are protesting the PNEP, claiming that the program represents a serious threat to their safety. Yet in more than 25 years of functioning prison-based needle and syringe programs, there has not been a single reported incident of assault with needles from such programs anywhere in the world. Occupational safety is better — not worse — where these programs exist, because staff are far less vulnerable to accidental needle-stick injuries and also less likely to experience such an injury with a needle/syringe that has been shared by many people. Resistance from correctional officers to PNEPs is to be expected and has been seen elsewhere. But the experience in other jurisdictions has also shown that with appropriate education and training, correctional staff will come to agree that these programs lead to a safer prison environment.

In more than 25 years of functioning prison-based needle and syringe programs, there has not been a single reported incident of assault with needles from such programs anywhere in the world.

While the decision to implement PNEP in federal prisons is an important development, CSC must fix fundamental problems with the program’s design to comply with public health principles and professionally-accepted standards so that prisoners who need this health service will be able to gain access, thereby protecting their health and the community. Failure to remedy these flaws is an ongoing breach of prisoners’ Charter rights.

We ask you to show your ongoing support for prison-based needle and syringe programs by endorsing the statement below. You can do that by replying to this email and sending us your name and the name of your organization. We will send the statement with your signature to CSC and to federal parliamentarians on Prisoners’ Justice Day on August 10th so they know there is broad support for prisoners’ right to health, including meaningful access to sterile injection equipment.

 

Statement

Correctional Service of Canada must fix fundamental flaws with prison needle exchange program 

Statement by X organizations Canada-wide

 August, 2019 — We, the undersigned, represent many different communities and interests. But today we speak with one voice, firmly committed to health and human rights, to urge the federal government to fix the flaws in its “Prison Needle Exchange Program” (PNEP), so prisoners have easy and confidential access to sterile injection equipment.

While we welcome the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC)’s decision to implement PNEPs in federal prisons, PNEP details reveal serious deficiencies that are not in keeping with public health principles or professionally-accepted standards for such programs. Most fundamentally, the PNEP violates prisoners’ confidentiality at many points. No working program in the world uses the approach adopted by CSC, which will operate as a very strong barrier to access. As a result, prisoners will continue to be exposed to the risk of HIV, hepatitis C virus and other harms to their health. There is no justification for this approach.

The evidence also shows that in more than 25 years of functioning prison-based needle and syringe programs, there has not been a single reported incident of assault with needles from such programs anywhere in the world. Occupational safety is better — not worse — where these programs exist, because staff are far less vulnerable to accidental needle-stick injuries and also less likely to experience such an injury with equipment that has been used by many people. Resistance from correctional officers to PNEPs has been seen elsewhere. But the experience in other jurisdictions has also shown that with appropriate education and training, correctional staff will come to agree that these programs lead to a safer prison environment.

Together, we call upon CSC to fix fundamental problems with the program’s design to comply with public health principles and professionally-accepted standards so that prisoners who need this health service will be able to gain access, thereby protecting their health. Failure to remedy these flaws is an ongoing breach of prisoners’ human rights, as outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

 

For more information please visit www.prisonhealthnow.ca.

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Show Your Support for Prison Needle and Syringe Programs