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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.

Blood borne communicable diseases A 1997 study of New South Wales prison entrants reveals nearly 40% enter with Hepatitis C. HIV rates have consistently been higher in the prison system than the general community, with current rates at about 10 times higher. This despite a 1996 study of 14 recently released HIV positive prisoners revealing seven contracted HIV in the prison system, with 5 of these seroconversions genetically sourced to one prisoner.

However, the prison system refuses to implement needle exchange programs, despite their successful operation in Switzerland and Germany, and introduce other schemes such as allowing prisoners access to Narcotics Anonymous and expand methadone program access, particularly to short sentence prisoners.

Through successful lobbying, condoms will be distributed through the NSW prison system, following the lead of 19 overseas jurisdictions and the Australian Capital Territory, through 1997.

Justice Action provided support to Richard Lynott, who died of AIDS related illnesses, in his suing of the NSW Government for breach of duty of care in 1996. Justice Action ran a high profile national media campaign on these issues, with all mainstream media carrying stories.

Blood borne communicable diseases
A 1997 study of New South Wales prison entrants reveals nearly 40% enter with Hepatitis C. HIV rates have consistently been higher in the prison system than the general community, with current rates at about 10 times higher. This despite a 1996 study of 14 recently released HIV positive prisoners revealing seven contracted HIV in the prison system, with 5 of these seroconversions genetically sourced to one prisoner. However, the prison system refuses to implement needle exchange programs, despite their successful operation in Switzerland and Germany, and introduce other schemes such as allowing prisoners access to Narcotics Anonymous and expand methadone program access, particularly to short sentenced prisoners.

Through successful lobbying, condoms will be distributed through the NSW prison system, following the lead of 19 overseas jurisdictions and the Australian Capital Territory, through 1997.

Justice Action provided support to Richard Lynott, who died of AIDS related illnesses, in his suing of the NSW Government for breach of duty of care in 1996. Justice Action ran a high profile national media campaign on these issues, with all mainstream media carrying stories. Justice Action is currently seeking to obtain equal access to HIV positive prisoners to trials of new HIV treatments.

Womens' Health
Justice Action's program of volunteers assisting women prisoners with their cases and custodial complaints at Mulawa prison has ensured that the particular needs of women prisoners are reflected in our policy positions. Justice Action is represented on the Women's Advisory Committee in CHS to ensure that women's health needs are properly addressed.

Drugs
Justice Action raises concerns about improper medication and treatments when these arise.
Justice Action also supports calls for the use of non-custodial methods of punishment for drug users and the decriminalisation of drugs. In conjunction with the Victorian based Peoples' Justice Alliance, Justice Action successfully had the International Conference on Penal Abolition (1997) resolve that illegal drugs should be decriminalised.

The national conference made similar resolutions. In Justice Action's submissions to the Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service, it was argued that drug law reform would remove the incentive to the endemic police corruption that exists and should be recommended. Further, Justice Action endorsed submissions on this issue by other organisations to the Royal Commission.

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.

Blood borne communicable diseases A 1997 study of New South Wales prison entrants reveals nearly 40% enter with Hepatitis C. HIV rates have consistently been higher in the prison system than the general community, with current rates at about 10 times higher. This despite a 1996 study of 14 recently released HIV positive prisoners revealing seven contracted HIV in the prison system, with 5 of these seroconversions genetically sourced to one prisoner.

However, the prison system refuses to implement needle exchange programs, despite their successful operation in Switzerland and Germany, and introduce other schemes such as allowing prisoners access to Narcotics Anonymous and expand methadone program access, particularly to short sentence prisoners.

Through successful lobbying, condoms will be distributed through the NSW prison system, following the lead of 19 overseas jurisdictions and the Australian Capital Territory, through 1997.

Justice Action provided support to Richard Lynott, who died of AIDS related illnesses, in his suing of the NSW Government for breach of duty of care in 1996. Justice Action ran a high profile national media campaign on these issues, with all mainstream media carrying stories.

Blood borne communicable diseases
A 1997 study of New South Wales prison entrants reveals nearly 40% enter with Hepatitis C. HIV rates have consistently been higher in the prison system than the general community, with current rates at about 10 times higher. This despite a 1996 study of 14 recently released HIV positive prisoners revealing seven contracted HIV in the prison system, with 5 of these seroconversions genetically sourced to one prisoner. However, the prison system refuses to implement needle exchange programs, despite their successful operation in Switzerland and Germany, and introduce other schemes such as allowing prisoners access to Narcotics Anonymous and expand methadone program access, particularly to short sentenced prisoners.

Through successful lobbying, condoms will be distributed through the NSW prison system, following the lead of 19 overseas jurisdictions and the Australian Capital Territory, through 1997.

Justice Action provided support to Richard Lynott, who died of AIDS related illnesses, in his suing of the NSW Government for breach of duty of care in 1996. Justice Action ran a high profile national media campaign on these issues, with all mainstream media carrying stories. Justice Action is currently seeking to obtain equal access to HIV positive prisoners to trials of new HIV treatments.

Womens' Health
Justice Action's program of volunteers assisting women prisoners with their cases and custodial complaints at Mulawa prison has ensured that the particular needs of women prisoners are reflected in our policy positions. Justice Action is represented on the Women's Advisory Committee in CHS to ensure that women's health needs are properly addressed.

Drugs
Justice Action raises concerns about improper medication and treatments when these arise.
Justice Action also supports calls for the use of non-custodial methods of punishment for drug users and the decriminalisation of drugs. In conjunction with the Victorian based Peoples' Justice Alliance, Justice Action successfully had the International Conference on Penal Abolition (1997) resolve that illegal drugs should be decriminalised.

The national conference made similar resolutions. In Justice Action's submissions to the Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service, it was argued that drug law reform would remove the incentive to the endemic police corruption that exists and should be recommended. Further, Justice Action endorsed submissions on this issue by other organisations to the Royal Commission.

Page 2

Prisons & Blood Borne Communicable Diseases

The Community Policy - September 1995
New South Wales Australia

ADOPTED BY:
AIDS Council of NSW, NSW Users and AIDS Association, Hepatitis C Council of NSW, The Gender Centre, Prisoners Action Group Justice Action, Aboriginal Deaths In Custody Watch Committee

ENDORSED BY:
National Centre in HIV Social Research, Macquarie University, Redfern Legal Centre, Drug Law Reform Committee, NSW Council for Civil Liberties

8.2 RECOMMENDATION:
That sexual harassment of women prisoners be treated according to the full extent of the law. That women prisoners be given information and encouraged to report any such sexual harassment.

8.3 RECOMMENDATION:
That, where a positive woman prisoner is the primary care provider for her children, the Department of Corrective Services facilitate such extra contact as is necessary for the proper maintenance of family relations.

8.4 RECOMMENDATION:
That, given the higher documented rate of self mutilation amongst women prisoners and the associated risk of transmission of BBCDs from blood spills, special counseling programs should be developed for those considered to be at risk.

9. TRANSGENDER PRISONERS
9.1 RECOMMENDATION:

That a policy on transgender prisoners be developed and implemented by the NSW Department of Corrective Services. That each prison with transgender prisoners be required to provide services addressing the specific needs of transgender prisoners.

9.2 RECOMMENDATION:
That the Department of Corrective Services liaise with community-based services expert on gender issues for accurate information about the special needs of transgender prisoners.

9.3 RECOMMENDATION:
That transgender prisoners be protected from sexual assault and coerced sexual activity from other prisoners arising from their particular vulnerability.

9.4 RECOMMENDATION:
That the NSW Department of Corrective Services provide relevant training in regard to issues pertinent to transgender prisoners. That this training be undertaken By all custodial staff working in prisons which have a high population of transgender prisoners.


9.5 RECOMMENDATION
That transgender prisoners, sentenced or on remand, should be offered the choice of male or female prison. That transgender prisoners should have the option of remaining in a prison where they feel they are safest, even if their security classification is lower than the prison of their choice. For example, they should have the choice to remain in 'protection tion' and suffer no disadvantage of entitlements from this choice. 9.6 RECOMMENDATION:
That transgender prisoners receive access to material which preserves their human dignity. This includes waxing and shaving equipment, prescribed hormones and appropriate underwear.

9.7 RECOMMENDATION:
That all transgender prisoners receive access to ongoing support, counseling and case management from relevant community services where appropriate and mutually agreed to.

10. EDUCATION
10.1 RECOMMENDATION:

That the Prison AIDS Project be renamed and broadened, and that it continue to update current knowledge of preventive strategies and modify its programs as new information and research becomes available.

10.2 RECOMMENDATION:
That the NSW Prison HIV Peer Education Program be renamed and further broadened and that this program include education about all BBCDs and STDs including life skills and health maintenance.


Contact:
ACON (02) 206 2000,
NUAA (02) 369 3455,
HCC NSW (02) 332 1599,
Gender Centre (02) 569 2366,
Prisoners Action Group & Justice Action (02) 9660 9111

 

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Suite 204, 4 Goulburn Street
Sydney NSW Australia
Telephone: 02 9283 0123
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