‘No new anything:’ Guards union says prison needle exchange expansion on hold

CALGARY — The union representing Canadian correctional officers says a program making clean needles available to inmates at a number of prisons across the country won’t be expanding to new institutions during the COVID-19 crisis.

Corrections Canada began the program in 2018 allowing inmates who use injection drugs to have access to clean syringes.

It has been rolled out across the country since June 2018 and is offered in at least nine of the 49 federal prisons including Atlantic Institution, Fraser Valley Institution, Edmonton Institution for Women, Joliette Institution and Dorchester Penitentiary. Bowden Institution in central Alberta was recently added to the list.

“As everything sits right now there’s no new anything. It’s completely stopped as far as the progression of new policies,” said James Bloomfield, Prairies regional president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers.

“For example, at Bowden we have not actually got to the point of an inmate in a cell with a needle yet.”