Professor Blewett calls for needle-exchange program in prisons

Former health minister Professor Neal Blewett said about a dozen countries have needle and syringe-exchange programs in corrections facilities to combat the spread of hepatitis C.

"Why should young people, put in prison, in addition to the penalties they pay, also have the punishment of a blood-borne viral disease because of the problem with clean needles," Professor Blewett said.

He recalled that community-based exchange programs that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s in Australia and overseas were controversial but had lowered harm and overdose rates in needle users.