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20.03.2023 | Publication

Prison-based drug treatment in Finland: History, shifts in policy making and current status

Julkaisun nimi:

Prison-based drug treatment in Finland: History, shifts in policy making and current status


Tourunen, J. Weckroth, A. Kaskela, T.


According to prison health surveys, there were considerably more substance dependence problems among inmates in 2006 than were observed twenty years ago. Article examines prison-based drug treatment at the level of political discourse and outlines changes in drug policy that may have influenced the penal system and its practices.







Julkaisun tiedot:

Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 29; 575-588.

Lyhyt kuvaus:

The article outlines, at the level of political discourse, changes in drug and criminal policy that may have influenced the penal system as a backdrop to the rise of prison-based drug treatment programmes (PBDT) in Finland. METHODS AND DATA: Our perspective is historical. The article is based on historical and political documents, scholarly research and white papers.

The history of PBDT in Finland is characterised by an absence of drug treatment programmes until the 1980s, first initiatives at the end of the 1980s, enthusiastic programme development from the mid-1990s, and decreasing interest during recent years. Unlike the National Drug Strategy, the Prison Drug Strategy aimed at a drug-free environment (zero tolerance) and implemented harm-reduction measures only to a limited extent.

The development of PBDT represents the new way of performing treatment in prisons, with features of managerialism. PBDT is also affected by an organisational segregation of rehabilitation and medical treatment, which prevents integration of harm-reduction measures with rehabilitative treatment, and is in conflict with general aims of integrating substance abuse treatment to mental and healthcare services in Finland. In the spirit of a new kind of Penal Welfarism, the role of documented individual risk and needs assessment in defining an offender’s sentence has increased.

Keywords: prison, drug treatment, criminal policy, drug policy, drug-related problems, Finland

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