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Prison guards push for changes to needle plan before national rollout


OTTAWA – Federal prison guards are warning that needle-exchange programs in penitentiaries pose them a health and safety risk.

Jason Godin, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, says the initiative clashes with the long-stated principle of a zero-tolerance policy on drugs and makes prisons riskier workplaces.

The federal prison service has already set up programs at two institutions in a bid to reduce the incidence of infectious diseases among inmates.

The initiative, to be rolled out to all federal prisons next year, will give inmates access to clean needles in an effort to limit the transmission of hepatitis C and HIV.

From 2007 to 2017, the prevalence of hepatitis C in prison declined to 7.8 per cent from 31.6 per cent, while HIV dropped to 1.2 per cent from just over two per cent, according to federal statistics.

Copyright (c) 2017 The Canadian Press