Prison guards threaten strike action

PORTUGAL’S PRISON guards union is threatening strike action, following the decision by the government to make clean syringes available to prisoners. The union considers this decision to be tantamount to the legalisation of drugs within prisons.  

The president of the Sindicato Nacional do Corpo da Guarda Prisional (SNCGP), Jorge Alves, believes that the government measure will prove counterproductive, transforming a prison term into “a death sentence in disguise for many inmates”. As well as helping to encourage suicide by drug overdose, the syringe exchange service will allow a higher number of prisoners to form drug taking groups and, therefore, facilitate syringe sharing, causing the spread of disease such as Aids. He also alleges that by the prison service offering to change prisoners’ syringes, it will encourage drug dealing within prisons and could also cause serious security problems, placing the guards and prisoners at physical risk.  

In addition, the union is criticising the Minister for Justice, Alberto Costa, for not hearing its opinion. Alves does not accept the fact that no referendum was held for prisoners, and he guarantees that even they themselves are afraid of the consequences this measure could have.

This move forms part of the action plan against drugs and drug addicts, which is to be implemented by 2008. A source at the Ministry for Justice referred that, for the moment, no comment is being made on this issue.