Analysis Thematic paper
< image © Valentin Lombardi.

Many people are living with addiction in prison. They face great difficulties. Drugs are an integral part of prison systems: it is a means to endure the pain. Prisons, often overcrowded and unsanitary, increase the risks inherent in drug use. Prisoners with substance use disorders face prejudices and discriminatory prison security measures. Care is struggling to make its way.

How is addiction experienced behind bars?

Prison Insider examines addictive disorders in prison and the treatment that prisoners can benefit from. The testimonials provided by people struggling with substance use disorder, those who accompany them and those who defend their rights are at the heart of this paper. Here are some perspectives on practices in Belgium, Canada, France, Ireland and Moldova.

Many countries have chosen a repressive legal framework in the field of drugs.

Security is frequently used as an excuse to refuse risk reduction measures.


Prison Insider promotes a collaborative approach to information: views of experts and people concerned by the problems of drug use in prison are gathered in this paper, with no claim to exhaustiveness. The people who have contributed to this article are the following:

Irene Aboudaram (Doctors of the World, France), Olivier Bagnis (former head of the Centre for Care, Support and Prevention In Addictology of Baumettes prison, France), Baptiste* (former prisoner at Fleury-Mérogis prison, France), Saoirse Brady (Irish Penal Reform Trust, Ireland), Anne-Claire Bréchet Bachmann (Prison infirmary mobile unit of the prisons of La Brenaz, Clairière, Favra, Vallon and Villars, Switzerland), Svetlana Doltu (Act For Involvement, Moldova), Ganna Dovbakh (Eurasian Harm Reduction Association, Lithuania), Pamela Drumgoole (Irish Penal Reform Trust, Ireland), Christophe Henrion (Ambulatoire Forest outpatient clinic, Belgium), Marie Hornsperger (former coordinator of the health awareness programme at Nantes Carquefou prison, Doctors of the World), Jérome* (former prisoner at Fresnes prison, France) Sandra Ka Hon Chu (HIV Legal Network, Canada), Mélanie Kinné (Prison treatment unit of the University Hospital of Nîmes, France) Solenn Lebret-Dallaserra (PhD student in sociology of prisons and incarcerations, France), Kris Meurant (ASBL Transit, Belgium), Violeta Mejia (Ambulatoire Forest outpatient clinic, Belgium), Ridha Nouiouat (Sidaction, France), Sophie* (social in-reach worker, Ireland).