OTTAWA – The prisoner needle exchange programs that the guards say might endanger their health and safety can have another look, Minister for Public Protection, Ralph Goodale, said on Tuesday.
The federal prison service has already established needle programs in establishments in Ontario and New Brunswick in an attempt to reduce the incidence of infectious disease among prisoners.
The initiative, which is presented to all federal prisons starting in January, gives prisoners access to clean needles in an effort to limit the transfer of hepatitis C and HIV.
Jason Godin, president of the Union of Correcting Officers of Canada, said the plan conflicts with the long-term principle of drug lease tolerance policy and makes prisons more dangerous to the people work in them.
Permitting prisoners to use needles in their cells will significantly increase the risks to protectors, who may be injured or infected by needle sticks, says the union. It states that, in similar programs in some European countries, spraying in cells is not permitted, only in centers that are supervised by health professionals.
"We're trying to get the government to look at other options that may be available," said Godin on Tuesday in an interview. "We are not in favor of the program, but at the same time if they go down that way, we want to implement it safely."
Goodale told the House of Commons public safety committee on Tuesday that he had a very good discussion with Godin last week and wished the union to have "the absolute confidence" his work is respected.
"There's a crucial job and it's a hard work," said Goodale. "I want to make sure that as much as possible is human, we respond to valid UCCO representations."