Central Alberta News

Bowden inmates will be provided with needles at expense of prison staff, says union

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO-SACC-CSN) denounced Correctional Service Canada’s decision to implement the Prison Needle Exchange Program (PNEP) at Bowden Institution.

Starting March 1, federal inmates will be allowed to have their own needle in their cell to inject intravenous drugs.

UCCO-SACC-CSN said they are convinced that the PNEP puts correctional officers and front-line staff at greater risk.

“The Prison Needle Exchange Program is allowing inmates to inject illegal drugs alone in a dark corner of their cell,” said James Bloomfield, Prairies regional president, UCCO-SACC-CSN.

“The overall risk to the inmate is dramatically increased in comparison to the harm reduction methods being employed in overdose prevention sites (OPS), an alternative that CSC has gone with before. The risk to all staff and inmates is only increased when needles intended for injecting illegal drugs are in the cells.” 

Correctional Service Canada (CSC) has chosen to implement a Prison Needle Exchange Program when there is a more effective, safer option available, said the union.

“Overdose prevention sites are overseen by health care professionals who are properly trained for assessing individuals who inject illegal drugs,” said Bloomfield.

“An overdose prevention site is being run safely at Drumheller Institution, and there have been no missing needles or problems regarding an increase to staff risk. The Correctional Service of Canada has refused to listen to all front-line staff regarding their safety and has chosen to put a dollar value on the safety of first responders.

“We are asking Albertans to call their local MPs to demand that safety be at the forefront for first responders at Bowden Institution,” said Bloomfield. “Remove the unsafe and problematic Prison Needle Exchange Program and replace it with overdose prevention sites overseen by health care professionals.”   

First responders deserve to have their safety put ahead of a corporate decision, said the union.

-Media release from the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers

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