On tonight's edition of Prison Pipeline, host Doug McVay speaks with Rick Lines, executive director of Harm Reduction International, about the need to decriminalize drug use and addiction in order to better deal with problematic drug use, to prevent the transmission of disease, and to prevent overdose deaths.
Contamination of street drugs with fentanyl and carfentanyl has driven overdose death rates to never-before-seen heights. Even before these synthetic opioids became a problem, use of street drugs has been a public health issue. HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C are blood borne diseases, and sharing of injection equipment puts people at risk of acquiring disease.
Syringe service programs and needle exchanges operate in Multnomah County and many other jurisdictions. These basic harm reduction services are a great help, yet more is needed. Public health workers and community activists around the US are looking for more effective harm reduction innovations that can reach larger numbers and people and that can also address the growing problem of overdose deaths.
One intervention that's being used successfully in Canada, Australia, several European Union nations, and a number of other countries around the world, is the Safe Consumption Space or Safe Injection Site. Cities and counties around the United States are considering this vital intervention, but the federal government appears to be moving away from harm reduction.
Rick Lines is the executive director of Harm Reduction International. Rick has been working in HIV and harm reduction services, policy and advocacy since the early 1990s, and is known for his leading work in the areas of HIV in prisons, prison needle/syringe programmes, human rights and the death penalty for drug offences. He started his career providing front-line HIV and harm reduction services for prisoners and ex-prisoners in Canada. He later served as Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust in Dublin, and acted as a technical assistance advisor on HIV in prisons for several UN agencies.
Rick holds an appointment as Visiting Professor at the University of South Wales. He is co-founder and Chair of the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy at the Human Rights Centre, University of Essex, where he is a Visiting Fellow. He is Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Visiting Lecturer in human rights and drug policy at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway. He holds Masters Degrees in both Sociology and International Human Rights Law, as well as a PhD in Law.
He is a member of the Strategic Advisory Group to the UN on Drug Use and HIV and of the Global Fund Human Rights Reference Group. He is a former member of the Technical Advisory Group to the Global Commission on HIV and the Law and the Reference Group to the United Nations on HIV and Injecting Drug Use.
His first book, 'Drug Control and Human Rights in International Law', was published by Cambridge University Press in 2017.