This paper aims to describe the impact of the COVID-19 containment measures on the provision of drug treatment and harm reduction services in European prisons in15 countries during the early phase of the pandemic (March –June 2020).
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This paper aims to describe the impact of the COVID-19 containment measures on the provision of drug treatment and harm reduction services in European prisons in15 countries during the early phase of the pandemic (March -June 2020).
The paper is based on a mixed method research approach that triangulates different data sources, including the results of an on-line survey, the outcome of a focus group and four national case studies.
The emergence of COVID-19 led to a disruption in prison drug markets and resulted in a number of challenges for the drug services provision inside prison. Challenges for health services included the need to maintain the provision of drug-related interventions inside prison, while introducing a range of COVID-19 containment measures. To reduce contacts between people, many countries introduced measures for early release, resulted in around a 10% reduction of the prison population in Europe. Concerns were expressed around reduction of drug-related interventions, including group activities, services by external agencies, interventions in preparation for release and continuity of care.
Innovations aimed at improving drug service provision included telemedicine, better partnership between security and health staff and an approach to drug treatment more individualised. Future developments must be closely monitored.
The paper provides a unique and timely overview of the main issues, challenges and initial adaptations implemented for drug services in European prisons in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.