IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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Harm reduction in prisons: a 'rights based analysis' by Thomas Kerr, et al, Critical Public Health, Vol. 14, No. 4, 1-16, 2004

15th December 2004


(1) Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Montreal;
(2) British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, St. Paul's Hospital;
(3) Department of Health Care and Epidemiology, University of British Columbia;
(4) Irish Penal Reform Trust

ABSTRACT Throughout most of the world, the primary response to problems associated with illicit injection drug use has been to intensify law enforcement efforts. This strategy has contributed to an unprecedented growth in prison populations and growing concerns regarding drug-related harm within prisons. Despite the presence of international laws and guidelines that call for the protection of the health of prisoners, prison authorities have generally been slow to implement activities that have been proven effective in reducing drug-related harms in community settings. While a limited number of countries have made progress by implementing educational programmes, methadone maintenance therapy, bleach distribution and needle exchange, in most areas of the world, a substantially greater effort is needed to ensure that prisoners receive the same level of care offered in community settings. The current emphasis on security and abstinence from drugs within prisons is often regarded as incongruent with the goals and methods of harm reduction. However, available evidence indicates that most harm-reduction programmes can be implemented within prisons without compromising security or increasing illicit drug use.

Critical Public Health ISSN 0958-1596
copyright 2004 Taylor & Francis Ltd
DOI: 10.1080/09581590400027478
Critical Public Health, Vol. 14, No. 4, 1-16, 2004