Concerns over jail needle exchange

UNION chiefs have called on the NSW Government to rule out a trial of a prisoner needle exchange program in the state's jails.

Already a trial is under way in the ACT to determine if the program could reduce the instances of blood-borne disease transmissions between prisoners.

Public Service Association senior industrial officer Stewart Little said while he recognised needles were linked to serious health issues, trialling the program in NSW would pose an unacceptable risk to prison workers.

In 1990, prison officer Geoffrey Pearce was diagnosed with HIV after he was jabbed with an infected needle at Sydney's Long Bay Jail. He later died from the disease.

Mr Little said providing needles to prisoners would only make it easier for those kinds of attacks to occur.

He was also concerned handling needles would send the message that the "system has failed" and could threaten the success of drug rehabilitation programs.

"The health and safety of our prison officers, when conducting their duties, is too important for the State Government to gamble on," Mr Little said.

"Jails are meant to be about rehabilitation, not a venue for making prison officers complicit in the taking of illegal drugs."

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