Prison 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 prisons.


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.




Drug Treatment in the Criminal Justice System

The various projects of the Criminal Justice and Prison Programme support governments in developing 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. 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 in developing policies and rehabilitative measures of treating, educating or reintegrating drug users as alternatives to conviction or punishment.

Read more >> (Interview „Tangible results in Europe”)


The projects on site

The Criminal Justice and Prison Programme achieved tangible results in many European countries. In Georgia, the Pompidou Group developed a road map in co-operation 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 Criminal Justice and Prison Programme develops impact-oriented strategies that are already producing improvements.

Read more >> (Story “Made in Moldova”)


Project Documentation

Improving Drug Treatment Systems in Prisons (2016-2018)

Criminal Justice Responses to Drug Dependent Prisoners – Joint programme of the Council of Europe and the European Commission (2015-2017)

Supporting Drug Treatment Services in Prisons - Extending Best Practices in Eastern Europe and the Balkan region (2013-2017)

Preventing Drug Trafficking and Abuse in Prisons - Extending Best Practices in Eastern Europe and the Balkan region (2012-2013)


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