A TOUGH-ON-DRUGS STANCE IN THE PRISON SYSTEM HARMS PRISONERS
A new pilot program in two Canadian prisons is a sign that our prisons can change.
The department responsible for our federal prison system, Correctional Service Canada, announced this week that it will launch a pilot program for needle exchanges. A wider program is set to launch in January 2019. Groups like the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network applauded the move. On the other side, the union representing correctional officers decried the program. They said in a statement, “Correctional Service Canada has decided to close its eyes to drug trafficking in our institutions.”
In fact, it is the opposite. A tough-on-drugs stance in the prison system harms prisoners and any other rehabilitative efforts.
A Correctional Service memo obtained by The Canadian Press in February told the Liberal government that “a program to provide clean drug-injection needles to prisoners could reduce the spread of hepatitis C by 18 per cent a year.” The memo also noted that a safe tattooing program that ran for two years was viewed positively by both inmates and staff alike. That program was cut by the Conservative government in 2007.
That government’s hostile approach to drug users led to the creation of Bill C-12, the “Drug-Free Prisons” act. At the time, Howard Sapers, thencorrection investigator, described the proposed act as “not about making federal prisons drug-free or treating substance abuse. It is about punishing illicit drug use in prison.”
“THERE IS AN IMMENSE POWER IMBALANCE THAT PUTS DRUG USERS AT A MASSIVE DISADVANTAGE.”
A new pilot program in two Canadian prisons is a sign that our prisons can change, writes Vicky Mochama.