Improving prisoner and public health

The Australian Capital Territory will become the first Australian jurisdiction to trial a needle and syringe program in prison – a principled, evidence-based, human rights-compliant response to a major public health issue. Research shows that prisons are a “hot bed” for blood borne virus transmission. An estimated 30–40 percent of male prisoners and 50–70 percent of female prisoners live with Hepatitis C, with major transmission risks to their children, partners and friends when they leave prison.

Together with organisations like Anex and the Australian Medical Association, the Human Rights Law Centre has long advocated for the introduction of prison needle and syringe programs. The overwhelming evidence from jurisdictions like Germany and Switzerland shows that such programs result in a significant decrease in syringe sharing among inmates, a major reduction in the spread of blood-borne viruses, and an increase in referrals to treatment programs.

With the ACT showing the lead, the HRLC will continue to work and advocate with Anex and others to ensure that this crucial public health measure is implemented across Australia.