Corrections Canada will begin 1st phase of its needle exchange program in June. Harm-reduction advocates say the needle exchange program is long overdue, but prison guards say they are wondering what happened to the correctional service’s zero-tolerance policy on drugs. (CBC)

Inmates at two federal prisons who use injection drugs will have access to clean syringes beginning in June, with the Correctional Service of Canada planning to roll out the service at other institutions next year.

The correctional service has previously made needles available for inmates with diabetes who require insulin and for people needing EpiPens, but this is the first time drug users in Canadian prisons will have access to clean needles.

“Correctional Service Canada’s prison needle exchange program is an initiative that will strengthen ongoing efforts to address infectious diseases in federal penitentiaries and in our communities,” said interim commissioner Anne Kelly in a written statement on Monday.

Phase 1 of the needle exchange program will begin with one men’s institution, the Atlantic Institution in Renous, N.B., as well as one women’s facility, the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont.

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