May 9, 2011
A prison officers' union recently voted against a proposed trial of a needle-exchange program in a Canberra jail. The Australian Capital Territory government is considering a pilot NEP at the Alexander Maconochie Center in response to inmate drug use.
At a May 4 meeting in Canberra, prison officer members of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) unanimously agreed to oppose the trial. An NEP would make life more difficult in an already very dangerous job, members said.
"Effectively, prisoners will be given weapons that they can use against staff," Vince McDevitt, regional CPSU director, said in a statement.
Staff members at the center said it would only be a matter of time before inmate access to needles would lead to an attack or death. In New South Wales, a prison worker attacked with a needle later died of AIDS, they noted.
The government is still awaiting findings of a review being conducted by former territorial Health Minister Michael Moore. That review will address how an NEP pilot might be implemented. An earlier government-commissioned report on the center recommended an NEP trial.
Unions are calling for improved case management and more therapeutic programs for drug-dependent inmates. Jails also need to do a better job of confiscating drug paraphernalia, they note.