Tuesday, 24 February 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
434. Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will attend the conference, breaking the barriers: partnership in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Europe and Central Asia, being held at Dublin Castle on 23 and 24 February 2004; if he will make a commitment to seriously investigate the best practice models of HIV/hepatitis C prevention in prisons (details supplied) that are operating in many of the countries represented at that conference with a view to implementing them here; and if not, the reason he is content to preside over a prison health system that does not meet accepted international best practice in this regard, nor strive to do so. [5618/04]
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): Best practice, as far as I am concerned, is to prevent drugs from being introduced into or used in prisons. The programme for Government commits me to creating a drug free prison service with mandatory drug testing of prisoners. I intend to put this commitment into effect and expect to receive shortly from the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel a new set of prison rules which will make provision for creating drug free prisons and for the effective use of mandatory drug testing.
A group consisting of Irish prison service management, prison governors and health board staff together with relevant clinicians have drafted a prison drug treatment policy. This policy would, in so far as practical, seek to apply consistent regulation and operational structure to the provision of drug treatment services both in the general community and in prison. I am currently considering this draft policy.
It is both my policy and that of the Irish prison service, in common with most prison systems worldwide, not to issue needles or injecting equipment to prisoners. Emphasis within prisons is on health education and appropriate substitution treatment, etc., where required. The report of the group to review the structure and organisation of prison health care services considered the matter of developing a syringe exchange programme within Irish prisons and came to the conclusion that, on the basis of potential risk to staff, such a step could not be recommended.
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