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Int J Drug Policy. 2014 Sep;25(5):916-23. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2014.06.007. Epub 2014 Jun 18.

The politics of harm reduction in federal prisons.

Author information

1
Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies, University of Toronto, 14 Queen's Park Crescent West, Toronto, ON, Canada M5S 3K9. Electronic address: tara.watson@utoronto.ca.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

We need to understand better the political barriers to prison-based harm reduction programs. In this paper, I examine the situation in the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), a federal prison agency with a zero-tolerance drug policy and general opposition to prison needle and syringe programs (PNSPs) and safer tattooing initiatives.

METHODS:

This study draws on 16 interviews with former CSC senior officials, former frontline staff, and external stakeholders; CSC policy and practice documents; and testimony from a House of Commons Standing Committee public study. Thematic coding and comparison of texts were used to examine emergent themes of interest.

RESULTS:

Four interrelated issues were central for understanding the political barriers: a narrower definition of harm reduction used in corrections, both in principle and practice; the Conservative government's tough-on-crime agenda; strong union opposition; and stakeholder perceptions that political constraints will likely persist, including the view that litigation may offer the only way to introduce PNSPs.

CONCLUSION:

The system is at an impasse and key questions remain about the importability of harm reduction services into federal prisons. Despite a highly challenging policy environment, moving forward will demand asking new, critical questions and devising more strategic ways of entering the political-operational dialogue that opposes evidence-based programs.

KEYWORDS:

Harm reduction; Needle and syringe programs; Politics; Prisons

PMID:
25018152
DOI:
10.1016/j.drugpo.2014.06.007
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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