Prisons, drugs and society (2001)




It is insufficiently recognised that much more can be done within our prison systems to reduce the harm from drugs and to treat successfully a large number of those prisoners who area ddicted to drugs. The promotion of health in prisons can make a major contribution to national strategies for tackling the problems of drugs (including alcohol) in society.

Current national strategies to deal with the ill effects of illicit drugs are based upon laws aimed at the reduction of supply, demand, use and harm resulting from drugs. A rising proportion of those imprisoned are there because of breaking these laws relating to drugs. Experience in the WHO Regional Office for Europe's Health in Prisons Project has shown that any national strategy for reducing the harm from illicit drugs must include how to tackle the drugs issues in prisons. Many of those sent to prison are already addicted and require treatment and assistance to reduce the harm from their drug use. Prison is a unique opportunity to address these health issues while also addressing the causes of ffending behaviour.

 This Consensus Statement is based on the accumulated experience and advice of member country representatives of the WHO Health in Prisons Project and the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe, together with advice from selected experts from many parts of Europe. It was finalised after discussions held by delegates at the WHO/Council of Europe conference on Prisons, Drugs and Society held in Berne, Switzerland in September 2001, hosted by the Federal Government of Switzerland.