According to the Association for Prevention and Harm Reduction Programs Australia (Anex), bans on prisoners possessing drugs and syringes have failed to stop their routine use behind the prison walls.

A harm reduction group says Australia's jails are a major source for new blood-borne infection, and it is calling for a controlled needle exchange for inmates.

The commonplace usage and sharing of dirty needles among drug-using inmates, promote the spread of disease within the prison population and eventually in the community of the infected inmates after release, the report says.

Anex suggests Australia prisons to follow the protocol overseas which had introduced controlled needles and syringe programs (NSPs), as research showed that it can stop new infections and create a safer condition for the inmates, as well as the prison officers.

Prison officers owe it to themselves to demand a regulated prison needle and syringe program in order to protect their security and health, John Ryan, chief executive of Anex, wrote in the paper published in the Journal of Health, Safety and Environment.

He says that supplying sterile needles and syringes in a place where drug use is prohibited may seem contradictory, it would be a part of the list of strategies, to create safer environment for both prisoners and prison staff.

Mr Ryan calls to attention, the Australian research that shows close to 40 per cent of inmates say they have injected drugs while in prison, with about 70 per cent of them, admitting to sharing injecting equipment.

Reports have shown cases where smuggled syringes were each used by as many as 100 inmates and the needles resharpened by grinding on cell wall.

Two-thirds of prison officers reported finding these contraband syringes that posed serious risk of needle stick injury during cell or prisoner searches. Research also showed that nearly 35 per cent of those entering the nation's prison system had existing Hepatitis C.

Mr Ryan said, It is irrefutable that prison authorities owe a duty of care to prisoners, to protect them from foreseeable harm while they are in custody.

He said Australia already had the most serious example of a prisoner using a syringe as a weapon. In 1991, a HIV positive inmate used a blood-filled syringe to stab a prison officer, who later died of AIDS.

He said similar attacks had not been repeated in prisons overseas that had used the controlled NSPs.