Canadian Report Recommends Drugs for Addicts in Prison


A report released last week to the Canadian House of Commons recommends providing clean needles and heroin to addicts who are incarcerated as part of addiction treatment. The report from the Standing Committee on Public Safety and Public Security details current problems and possible solutions for issues in Canadian prisons.

The idea revolves around harm reduction. This is a strategy that has had some success when addicts are given with methadone along with compulsory treatment for their addictions. The logic seems to be that since prisoners are finding ways to get their drugs while in prison, they ought to be able to do so safely -- to reduce the incidence of AIDS and other diseases that are spread by sharing needles.

While the logic of harm reduction is valid outside of prison, one has to wonder why (and how) Canadian prisoners are able to obtain heroin in the first place. It seems as though, in the controlled environment of a prison, this ought to be preventable.

It is unlikely that this provision will be adopted, but even considering the idea seems a bit outlandish from the perspective of the U.S. After all, we put people in prison (at least some) as a consequence of drug use, not to enable the activity.

A related issue may one day face us in the U.S. because of the legal use of marijuana. If it is legal to prescribe a drug for some medical conditions, and a prisoner has one of those conditions, then they may be eligible to receive marijuana in while incarcerated. So far, this hasn't come up, but it may. Don't be surprised if a lawsuit on behalf of a prisoner with cancer (or other serious condition) one day opens the door for legal weed in a correctional institution.


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