The union that represent Canadian prison guards is urging the federal government to rescind a pilot project that brings needle exchanges to prisons. (File)

Canadian prison guards outraged over needle exchange program for inmates

‘This is heading towards condoning drug use behind penitentiary bars,’ union president says

It can come as a surprise to many in the general public to hear that illegal drugs make their way into prisons in Canada.

But what’s outright baffling for prison guards is a federal government decision to introduce a needle exchange program for inmates.

“This is heading towards condoning drug use behind penitentiary bars,” according to Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO) president Jason Godin.

“It’s our job to uphold the law and to get inmates off of drugs rather than give them needles to inject drugs.”

On June 27, the Correctional Service Canada (CSC) rolled out the prison needle exchange program at two jails, Grand Valley Institution for Women in Ontario and Atlantic Institution in New Brunswick.

Godin said the needle exchange is coming to all federal institutions by January 2019.

The government formally announced the program on May 14.

“In keeping with the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy, the Government of Canada is committed to protecting the health and safety of all Canadians, including federal inmates, through continued access to harm reduction and evidence-based health services,” Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale said in a press release. “We’re focused on ensuring that correctional institutions are secure environments conducive to inmate rehabilitation, staff safety and the protection of the public.”

The logic behind this later statement baffles Godin and his members, who say a prison is not a regular community like others where needle exchanges might work. As for staff safety, Godin can only see that decrease, and he also questions how this could protect the public.

“I think the Canadian public, in our view, has a right to know because 80 per cent of these inmates are going to be coming back to our communities and 80 to 90 per cent committed their crimes while on drugs or alcohol,” he said.

UCCO members have already held rallies against the CSC move to implement the needle exchanges, and they want the government to rescind the “dangerous program within our walls.”

They are asking the public to email their Members of Parliament about the subject.

Godin was asked to comment on the fact that many people are shocked to learn illegal drugs can get behind bars in the first place.

“We have tennis balls, body cavities, bows and arrows fired in,” he said during a phone interview with The Progress from Kingston, Ont. “Drones are the latest phenomena.”

Godin added that his union has been lobbying for full scanning machines at all federal prisons for years, something that exists in every prison in the U.S. and in all 26 provincial institutions in Ontario.

As for the practical, day-to-day question of how guards are supposed to deal with a needle exchange so that federal inmates can use illegal drugs, Godin has no idea.

“This is the question we haven’t been given a straight answer on,” he said. “What do you want us to do now?”

If guards see illegal drugs inside, they are supposed to confiscate them, but what if there is the residue of drugs on a needle in a cell?

“The real question is, what do you want us to do when the needles go missing?”

As for the intended goal of CSC, Godin insists rates of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C have already been on the decline inside prisons, and the money should be better spent on care and treatment.

• RELATED: Opinion: The missing exchange

• RELATED: Community needle sweeps coming for Chilliwack


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Yukon man facing new attempted murder charge in Port Alice exploding mail case

Leon Nepper, 73, is now facing one charge each of aggravated assault and attempted murder

Campbell River’s Gibby Nik is all about making a connection

Local musician currently working on his second of three albums with Risque Disque Records

Green Party MLA urges support for proportional representation

Sonia Furstenau speaks in Campbell River at community forum

Risk of thunderstorm this afternoon for Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland

A special weather statement calls for heavy rain and wind over the next 48 hours

Local talent glad to be playing on home ice for Campbell River Storm

This year’s roster includes three players from Campbell River

Drag racing open house attracts 200-plus in Campbell River

Proponents still need to provide more information to the City

B.C. premier apologizes for removal of 1950s totem pole at Canada-U.S. border

First Nations say pole was raised at Peace Arch but removed to make way for tourism centre

Tornado touches down in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que.

Environment Canada says cars and homes have been damaged by severe thunderstorms and high wind gusts

An unexpected sight: Bear spotted eating another bear in central B.C.

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief finds bear eating another bear’s carcass

RCMP confirm death of missing BC teen Jessica Patrick

No details on cause were given. Case is under criminal investigation and police are asking for tips.

CUTENESS OVERLOAD: 2 sea otters hold hands at the Vancouver Aquarium

Holding hands is a common – and adorable – way for otters to stay safe in the water

B.C. teen with autism a talented guitarist

Farley Mifsud is gaining fans with every performance

B.C. man who left hospice to run in upcoming election dies

A week after leaving hospice to go to city hall to declare his candidacy, David Hesketh has died.

Tilray Inc sees $10-billion in market cap go up in smoke

Tilray’s share price closed at $123 US on Friday, a decline from its intraday peak of nearly $300 US earlier in the week

Most Read