Responses targeting drug users in criminal justice settings

Policy framework

Drug addiction plays a central role in violation of drug laws as well as petty acquisitive crime. A high proportion of drug users are arrested, and many are incarcerated. In addition, some prisoners start taking drugs while in prison. These observations are taken into consideration in the criminal justice systems of all the EU Member States and Norway. The majority of EU countries have included in their drug strategies a focus on the improvement of psychosocial and health services addressing drug addicts in prisons.

A need for flexible penal justice systems has emerged because of the growing number of imprisoned drug users and the consequent overcrowding of prisons. The notion that drug users might not be best accommodated in prison settings has resulted in the expansion of alternative measures to sentence proceedings and to incarceration. Cooperation between the criminal justice structures, namely prison and probation, and between these and health structures, is generally considered to be in need of improvement, and appropriate measures are developing (Table 12 OL).