Breaking the syringe economy: prison union fights ACT plan

A national-first prison needle exchange proposed for the ACT has sparked debate ahead of the territory's election on Saturday. Reporter Ben Westcott examines the proposal.

“A syringe is like currency in a jail,” says ACT union leader Vince McDevitt. “So the idea that you’re just going to let the prisoners wander off down the corridor with this and they’ll just look after it is ridiculous.”

A proposed needle exchange program in ACT prisons (called the Alexander Maconochie Centre) would be the first in Australia — indeed, the first in the English-speaking world. And it has the Community and Public Sector Union brewing for a fight.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

4 thoughts on “Breaking the syringe economy: prison union fights ACT plan

  1. Mark Duffett

    I have never understood how drugs can get into prisons so seemingly easily. But given that they apparently do, surely this is a devastating argument against prohibition laws generally. If drugs can’t be kept out of a prison, what realistic prospect can there possibly be of keeping them out of wider society?

  2. John Bennetts

    I write as one whose early employment took me deep into quite a few prisons.

    If the prison officers aren’t the weakest link in the security chain, then they must be very close to it.

    In contrast with the concept that perfect hospitals are those with no patients and perfect schools are without students, I have read somewhere that the perfect prison is the one without warders. Prisoners aren’t trusted, so they are checked and double checked all down the line.

  3. Peter Parkes

    Just to clear up a minor factual innacuracy: there have been seven recorded cases of inmates contracting hepatitis C in the Alexander MacConochie Centre (AMC) since it opened. This is just the recorded cases. There may have been more new infections that were not recorded as the routine testing of inmates for Blood Borne Viruses (such as hepatitis B & C and HIV) has only recently been introduced at the AMC.

  4. AR

    Wot MarkD pointed out – if a prison can’t keep drugs out (and the only link to the outside world is the staff), then the prospect of society without drugs is lunacy.
    A truly ‘tuff-on-drugs’ strategy would offer free needles then bust everyone who accessed them in prison.
    Similarly the police should arrest everyone entering the Kings Cross injecting centre because, by definition, they are in possession of illicit substances.
    That this does not happen suggests a modus vivendi undelclared but set in concrete. Hypocrisy in Extremis.
    legalise the damn stuff, eradicate corruption a pen stroke, free up billions in wasted government expenditure and reduce prisons to almost empty echoing warrens.

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details