Sex & Health


The Laws of the Australian Government recognise that a person's capacity to access health services is not compromised by reason of imprisonment and that all people have a basic right to health. This recognition is evidenced in Australia's international treaty obligations.

There is little doubt that prisoners are amongst the unhealthiest people in Australia. The New South Wales Corrections Health Service (CHS) estimates that about 80% of prisoners have been imprisoned for offences related to legal or illegal drug use or committed whilst under their influence. 14% of prisoners are indigenous, who although only despite constitute less than 2% of Australia's population are internationally recognised as living in Third World conditions. 18% of prisoners are of non-English speaking background.

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Coroner Calls for Clean Jail Syringes


By Rosemary Desmond

CLEAN syringes should be available to Queensland prisoners, given the inability of Corrective Services to keep drugs out of the system, the state coroner says. Speaking during an inquest into the death of a prisoner by overdose, Michael Barnes noted that the inmate also had hepatitis C, and the availability of clean syringes would at least help to control the spread of viral diseases.

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Pricking the Bubble Around Prison NSP

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.

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Justice Action Report AMC PRISONERS' CONSULTATION: November 8, 2011

Justice Action Report



This Report was prepared following an all day Consultation with Alexander Maconachie Centre(AMC) prisoners. It was conducted by community members with special experience and standing in the prisoner and general community. Participants were: Kat Armstrong, Robert Barco, Brett Collins, Kiki Korpinen, Christopher Puplick, and Julie Tongs.


We acknowledge ACT Corrective Services for supporting the Consultation and distributing the Notice and Questions during the weekend before. Those documents are attached. We were disappointed that an observer remained in the room, and that the management of the prison didn't meet with us. We were very pleased to meet with the AMC prisoner delegates and the prison officer union representatives.


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Report Extracts


Burnet Report:
External component of the evaluation of drug policies and services and their subsequent effects on prisoners and staff within the Alexander Maconochie Centre Final Report, April 2011

(Burnet Institute Report) at http://www.health.act.gov.au/c/health?a=sendfile&ft=p&fid=1302161190&sid=

These quantitative data on drug use histories accord with responses from interview participants. Prison staff and other service providers consistently reported that they believed that drug use issues were prevalent among the prison population, as was drug use at the AMC.

‘We’ve got probably 65%-70% of our prisoners are in here because of a drug related offence.’ (key informant) ‘We’ve got them incarcerated but we’re still not reducing their usage.’ (key informant)

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JA submission re Needle and Syringe Program (Moore Report)

Submission regarding Moore Report – Implementation of a Needle and Syringe Program (NSP)

 (read as pdf)

Justice Action is a community-based organisation of criminal justice activists. We are consumers, prisoners, academics, and victims of crime, ex-prisoners, lawyers and general community members dedicated to making a change. We believe that meaningful change depends upon the free exchange of information, community involvement and the taking of responsibility by all members of the community. Operating for over 25 years, Justice Action has worked with inmates regarding issues of prisoners’ rights, education, women in prisons and health. We represented all Australians held against their will at the 2009 Consultation for the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) Treaty and defended the right of prisoners to vote in the Senate in 1997 and 2006. 

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Just Us article


Just Us September 2005 Vol:2 Issue 1


Australia’s government and community health organisations have reason to be proud over how they faced the threat of HIV/AIDS together in the 1980s. Officials, health workers and activists worked to provide harm minimisation resources to the stigmatised, vulnerable communities most under threat from the disease. Thousands of healthy Australians are living testimony to the success in limiting HIV transmission in this country.

Prisoners also benefited from the public health revolution sparked by the AIDS crisis.

NSW was first to introduce a prison methadone program in 1986, with other jurisdictions eventually following suit. The provision of condoms, dental dams, bleach for cleaning syringes and, most importantly, peer education programs encouraging prisoners to take responsibility for their own sexual and injecting health would follow over subsequent years. In most cases these innovations were met with initial resistance by prison staff, but their benefits to health and good order would slowly win over the skeptics and attract broad support from officers.

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Implementation of a Needle and Syringe Program at the Alexander Maconochie Centre

Implementation of a Needle and Syringe Program at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (pdf)

The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) was engaged by the ACT Government in May 2011 to investigate and report on models for the implementation of an NSP in the AMC. The project also entailed an assessment of barriers to implementation and broad consultations with key stakeholders. The emphasis of the project has been on seeking to develop a model that ensures optimal health and safety outcomes for everyone impacted upon by a custodial sentence. This includes not only the person being detained in custody but all prison staff and the broader community. This report outlines outcomes and recommendations from the project and proposes a way to meet this challenge.

The terms of reference for the work are as follows:

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