Why prisoners will be allowed to self-medicate

PRISONERS will be given bulk medication to self-administer for up to a week at a time as part of jail trial that officers say will lead to a trade in drugs, standovers and overdoses.

Medications deemed suitable for prisoner "self-possession" in the pilot program at Brisbane Correctional Centre at Wolston include amoxicillin, ibuprofen, aspirin, paracetamol and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants, such as fluoxetine and sertraline.

It's understood the pilot came about after Queensland Health found some prisoners were refusing to take medications in the afternoon because they were falling asleep too early.

Just 15 prisoners have so far been deemed suitable for the trial program, out of 160 ­inmates in the units selected.

A prison officer told The Courier-Mail they had not been consulted before the trial was announced and it was a "roll of the dice" every time an officer went to the prison floor to deal with inmates.

"Most staff think it will lead to increased drug trade, standovers and more overdoses and can't believe how stupid the idea is," the officer said.

"More overdoses, more code blues (medical emergencies), more times you're on the floor.

"Eventually you'll roll the dice once too often and come up craps. Meds will become currency."

A large number of medications have been labelled unsuitable for the trial, including other forms of antidepressants, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, opioids and stimulants.

The self-medication pilot is being conducted by Queensland Health, in partnership with Queensland Corrective Services.


General images of Brisbane Correctional Centre at Wolston, Wolston Friday 2nd August 2019 Picture AAP/David Clark
General images of Brisbane Correctional Centre at Wolston, Wolston Friday 2nd August 2019 Picture AAP/David Clark


A Queensland Health spokesman said that only medications deemed safe and non-tradeable would be included.

"No addictive drugs or medication that can be misused for recreational purposes or to harm others will be available for the self-medication management pilot," he said.

"Also, prisoners who have previously been found to divert drugs or who have been involved in standing over other prisoners will be excluded from the pilot."

The spokesman said the ­approach was successful elsewhere in Australia.

He said benefits included ensuring medication was available when needed; it encouraged prisoners to take greater responsibility for their health; it supported adherence to medication regimes in preparation for release; it reduced the amount of time taken to administer medication; and it potentially contributed to a calmer prison.

Another prison officer questioned how officers would be able to ensure inmates were taking their doses.

"They're suggesting crims who can't function as a grown adult ­manage their own medication - good luck," the officer said.