Pricking the Bubble Around Prison NSPs
17 January 2012
There is an unfounded fear in some sections of the general community and correction centres relating to the risk of both a needlestick attack and of contracting a blood-borne disease from such an injury. These fears have been deliberately aroused and used to block attempts to implement regulated Needle and Syringe Programs (NSPs) in the prison context despite clear evidence dispelling such fears.
This paper will focus on needlestick injuries and their associated risks, as well as the incidence of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) within the community and prison contexts as a result of shared needles. The need for both a regulated NSP and increased access to HCV treatment within prisons will be the core recommendations.
Firstly, the risks associated with needlestick injury will be explored. Then, the low risk of a needle being used as a weapon will be discussed. Thirdly, the prevalence of HCV among groups of people who inject drugs (PWID) both within and outside of prisons will be examined. It will be argued that the high prevalence of HCV within the prisoner population is primarily the result of PWIDs sharing needles. Lastly, the effectiveness of HCV treatment will be explored as well as its availability to prisoners.