Dalhousie Journal of Legal Studies


Adrien Iafrate


The incidence of HIV and Hepatitis C is significantly higher in Canadian federal penitentiaries than among the general public, as are the transmission rates of these two diseases. These disproportionate rates of infection are largely attributed to the sharing of needles among inmates who are addicted to intravenous drugs. This has created a serious public health risk for all federal inmates as well as the general public, since many of these inmates will be released back into society. In response to this risk, the Correctional Service of Canada asked the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to study the effectiveness and risks of prison needle-exchange programs (PNEPs). In 2006, PHAC’s report, “Prison needle exchange: Review of the evidence,” concluded that “[n]eedle-sharing practices decrease in prisons where PNEPs are offered.” Despite these findings, the federal government has refused to establish a prison needle-exchange program. The harm caused by the federal government’s continuing reluctance is compounded by an existing legislative prohibition on sterile needles in federal penitentiaries. In light of current political and legislative barriers, any hope of establishing such a program lies with the courts. This article assesses the ability to challenge the legislative prohibition on sterile needles through a claim under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.