Drug use and responses in prison in Belgium 2017

Belgium Country Drug Report 2017

Drug use and responses in prison

The Directorate General of the Penitentiary Institutions is responsible for the Belgian Prison system. The Ministerial Circular Letter of 18 July 2006 regulates the principles of an integral and integrated prison drug policy as implied by the Federal Drug Policy Note of 2001. It also stresses the importance of the active detection of drug problems and related health and psychiatric problems.

The latest survey on drug use prevalence among prison inmates in Belgium dates from 2009. The data were collected in two Belgian prisons and showed that approximately 71 % inmates had used an illicit drug prior to imprisonment, and 60 % had done so while in prison. One quarter of the inmates who used drugs at least once during imprisonment reported almost daily use inside prison. Cannabis was the most commonly used drug, and a majority of those who used cannabis prior to imprisonment continued to do so while in detention.

Healthcare in prison is the responsibility of the Federal Public Service of Justice. Members of the medical staff are responsible for the provision of information about drugs, drug-related infectious diseases and treatment options to every person entering prison and for checking whether or not a prisoner had been treated prior to detention. The central service for healthcare provides healthcare to inmates, while the psychosocial service provides medical and psychosocial advice as part of security measures in prisons and for those on probation.

Steering groups with the aim of targeting drug use and related problems have been established both at a central level and in each prison. Services for drug users in prison are provided by prison health teams and external caregivers.

Material giving information on the effects of different drugs and on drug-related health problems and risk behaviour in prison is available. Different drug-related health services, such as support from a psychologist, cognitive-behavioural interventions, OST, therapeutic communities and drug-free programmes are available, although coverage of many interventions remains limited. Drug treatment is often restricted to those with medical indications for treatment. OST can be either initiated or continued in prison, and methadone and buprenorphine are also available. Psychosocial treatment is not yet systematically available.

With regards to the prevention of drug-related infections, voluntary testing for hepatitis and HIV is available in some Belgian prisons. Treatment for infectious diseases is available in all prisons. Condom distribution takes place at health services and through small vending machines.

Aftercare and referral to community services after release are undertaken by central intake units, but the future funding of these units is uncertain.

Data collected in two Belgian prisons in 2009 indicate that approximately 71 % of inmates had used an illicit drug prior to imprisonment and 60 % had done so while in prison


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