Drug Treatment, Harm Reduction and Alternatives to Punishment

Drug Treatment, Harm Reduction and Alternatives to PunishmentPrison is a high-risk environment – both for the prisoners and the staff. In particular, injecting drug users are exposed to various health risks: overdosing, abscessed infections of injection sites, and the transmission of blood-borne diseases such as Hepatitis C or HIV. Limiting the spread of communicable diseases in prisons thus benefits prisoners as well as society as a whole, and reduces the burdens on a country's health system. Consequently, drug policy experts around the world recommend developing drug treatment services, harm reduction interventions and criminal justice policies that support alternatives to imprisonment for drug users who are in trouble with the law. In Europe, the Pompidou Group’s Criminal Justice and Prison Programme support governments to develop evidence-based criminal justice policies and comprehensive drug treatment systems in prison.

An integrated approach for human rights and health

The Pompidou Group ensures an enduring transfer of knowledge and an integrated approach based on cutting-edge science: Embedded in this vivid organisation and mutual exchange the Justice and Prison Programme is closely linked with other areas of the work activities of the Pompidou Group such as prevention, treatment and law enforcement. It’s actions focus on three main tasks: the development and improvement of national legal frameworks (policy) and on the enhancement of the professional skills (practice) and knowledge (research) of both partners and national stakeholders.




Knowledge generation:

Help to understand the drug phenomena and effects of drug policies


Translate research findings into recommendations that reflect the realities of our societies


Show partners and skateholders what works before drug policies are formed


Consult with partenrs, Civil Society Organisations and national policy makers

Policy Formulation:

Provide European expertise on evidence-based drug policies to governaments


Support, monitor and evaluate the implementation of policies


Introduce and implement new innovative approaches in the criminal justice system

Training of specialists:

Increase knowledge and skills of criminal justice staff through training and workshops


Support the work of practitioners to sustain the impact of trainings

Drug Treatment in the Criminal Justice System

The various projects of the Criminal Justice and Prison Programme support governments to develop strategies of drug treatment and social re-integration for drug-using detainees – in an effort to reduce relapse and recidivism. An effective and people-centred drug treatment system should comprise pharmacologically assisted treatment, like opiate agonist therapy, harm reduction and drug-free approaches such as therapeutic communities. Agonist treatment is an effective and important tool in the fight against HIV and hepatitis C, and can help opiate dependent drug users to stop or at least reduce their use of illicit drugs. And drug-free treatment on the other hand helps drug users who are not dependent on opiates and want to stop using or overusing drugs. It is crucial to understand: drug treatment services are especially effective if they are embedded in the general health and social care system. The promotion of through-care shall sustain drug treatment efforts and guarantee continuing care for people entering and leaving prison. The Programme assists governments to develop policies and rehabilitative measures of treating, educating or reintegrating drug users as alternatives to conviction or punishment.

The projects on site

The drug and prisons Programme achieved tangible results in many European countries. In Georgia the Group Pompidou developed a road map in cooperation with the government for introducing a law on alternatives to punishment. Together with the Department of Penitentiary Institutions of the Moldovan Ministry of Justice the programme refurbished prison wards which will accommodate Therapeutic Communities. In Ukraine, it introduced drug treatment and prevention tools in juvenile prisons. Each country has its special needs and challenges — and together with the partners on site the drug in prisons programme develops impact-oriented strategies that are already producing improvements.