Prison and drugs in Europe: current and future challenges


This publication provides an overview of current knowledge and the latest developments in the field of drug use and prison in Europe. The report explores in depth the epidemiology of drug use and drug-related problems among the prison population, the available social and health service responses to drug-related problems in prison, including the most recent evidence of effectiveness, and the drug supply and markets inside prison. It also discusses recent and future challenges in this area. The report will be of interest to policymakers and their advisors, specialists and practitioners, researchers and scientists and all those concerned with the issue of prison and drugs.

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Table of contents

  • Foreword
  • Executive summary
  • Acknowledgements
  • Chapter 1: An introduction to prison and drugs in Europe
    Introduction to the area of drugs and prison in Europe, including a description of the data sources and the regional and international initiatives around prison and drugs.
  • Chapter 2: Drug use before, during and after imprisonment
    This chapter presents epidemiological data on the drug consumption behaviours and patterns among people in prison in Europe. It discusses the drug and prison nexus by looking at prevalence data before, during and after imprisonment. The chapter unpacks the interconnections between drugs, drug use and prison.
  • Chapter 3: Drug-related health problems of people in prison
    This chapter focuses on the general health of people who are in prison and use or have used drugs. Particular attention is paid to infectious diseases and psychiatric comorbidity. The mortality of people who use drugs in prison is also addressed, both during imprisonment and in the period following release. The chapter also discusses the healthcare needs of women with drug problems who are in prison.
  • Chapter 4: Health and social responses to drug problems in prison
    This chapter maps the organisation and implementation of interventions in European prisons, starting with a description of the main principles guiding the provision of interventions and policy objectives indicated in current policy strategies. It provides an overview of different policy and institutional frameworks for prison health and outlines the availability and coverage of drug treatment interventions.
  • Chapter 5: A focus on harm reduction interventions in prison
    Chjapter focuses on harm reduction interventions in European prisons, providing a summary of available interventions, both directly and indirectly related to drug problems, in European countries.
  • Chapter 6: Available evidence and good practice addressing drug use and related harms in prison settings
    This chaptert discusses the evidence for the effectiveness of drug-related interventions in prison and identifies the main knowledge gaps. The chapter also discusses the fundamental principles of healthcare provision in prison and details EU strategies addressing drugs and prison.
  • Chapter 7: Supply of drugs in prison
    Chapter 7 focuses on the supply of drugs in prison settings. Prisons present a unique set of circumstances and challenges for those involved in drug markets and those trying to prevent drug supply. The chapter considers the main routes and methods of supplying illicit drugs and mechanisms of distribution inside prison and discusses the main measures implemented in prison to tackle them, with a particular focus on the use of drug testing.
  • Chapter 8: Current insights and future challenges
    This concluding chapter brings together key issues raised in the previous chapters with a view to discussing current and future challenges in the field. The main insights are presented under four themes: social vulnerabilities, the connection between prison and the community, the balance between care and control, and alternatives to imprisonment. Important implications for both policy and practice are outlined.
  • Abbreviations


Note on translations
: translated and produced by the Institute of Criminology and Social Prevention

Details of corrigendum 19 January 2022