icon star paper   Articles  
Back grey_arrow_rt.gif
Portugal Debates Setting Up Heroin Injecting Rooms in Prison
  Agence France Presse
December 24, 2003
Levi Fernandes

A recently released government report recommends Portugal set up heroin injection rooms in prisons, where widespread drug use is leading to rising HIV rates among the nation's 14,000 inmates. Nearly one in two Portuguese prisoners uses drugs and of those who do, 26.8 percent use injecting drugs like heroin, said the report. Alarmingly, the report concluded that more than three-quarters of those who use injecting drugs behind bars share their needles - creating an ideal environment for the spread of HIV.
Compiled by the office of Portugal's justice ombudsman, the report says 14 percent of prisoners are infected with HIV and 396 prisoners have AIDS. Along with other communicable diseases like tuberculosis and hepatitis, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS helped give Portugal the highest rate of prisoner deaths in the European Union last year.
To slow the spread of HIV and cut the death rate among prisoners, the report recommended the government set up injection rooms where inmates would be provided with clean needles and a place to shoot up in a supervised setting.
The recommendation was immediately backed by Portugal's lawyers association and by former UN General Assembly President Diogo Freitas do Amaral, who currently chairs a commission on prison reform in Portugal. "There are unique circumstances in prisons which can lead one to adopt a different approach to drugs than that which is adopted in the wider society," he said just after the report's release.
Justice Minister Celeste Cardona, however, has flatly rejected the proposal. Instead, government policy will continue to focus on addiction treatment programs, including methadone replacement therapy for heroin addicts, she said.
Fernando Negrao, head of Portugal's Drugs Institute, a branch of the health ministry that tackles drug addiction, argued that injection rooms could be effective but only after prisons become less crowded.
  icon paper stack View Older Articles   Back to Top   www.natap.org