Each facility has at least one medical cabinet with basic equipment.
Number of medical staff (FTE)
The main types of care provided are:
general medicine (municipal responsibility).
specialized addiction medicine and psychiatry (state responsibility).
The medical team consists mainly of nurses and general practitioners. Some facilities have psychologists, psychiatrists and specialists in addiction.
Depending on the size of the facility, the medical team may consist of between 2 and 17 persons.
Hospitals do not have special wards for prison inmates.
Access to health care
Health care is free
A medical examination is performed upon admission
The prisoner must be examined by a nurse within 24 hours of incarceration. The examination, which is usually carried out within two to three days of incarceration, normally includes screening for transmissible diseases (tuberculosis, HIV, hepatitis B/C)1.
Inmates draft a written request and submit it to a corrections officer. In some facilities, the inmate may submit the request in a dedicated box in a communal area.
Medical examinations are carried out on a confidential basis
Health care is guaranteed throughout incarceration.
Obtaining medicines differs according to the prescription. Some products, such as sleeping pills, are given to inmates in their cells. Drug replacement treatments are strictly monitored.
Hospitalization is by doctor’s orders. The head of the facility directs the appropriate security measures to be implemented (presence of a supervisor, use of restraint, etc.).
Physical health care
Prisoners suffer mainly from mental disorders and addictions. Hepatitis C is one of the most common physical diseases.
The Health Department is responsible for the prevention of epidemic and contagious diseases, such as the immediate quarantine of an infected person.
Risk reduction measures have been implemented. They are the following;
distribution of condoms during conjugal visits
distribution of chlorine for the disinfection of syringes
needle exchange (an exceptional measure).
Mental health care
A person found criminally irresponsible cannot be convicted.
Psychiatric hospitalisation under duress or for a severe mental illness is subject to conditions. Some prisoners, who are eligible for these conditions, serve their sentences in solitary confinement.
Psychologists or psychiatrists treat persons with mental illnesses. Prison staff also receive training.
Inmates may request a transfer to a psychiatric facility. The final decision is determined by the facility’s head and doctor, and the head of the receiving facility.
People with addictions (alcohol, tobacco, narcotics, psychotropic drugs…) receive special attention.
Eighteen facilities have had small detox units since 2007. These units represent 5% of the total prison capacity. Prisoners can start or continue substitution treatment in these units1.
Prisoners placed in detox units are subject to special conditions. Failure to comply with these may lead to reintegration into a regular ward.
Regular wards offer short programmes for addiction management. Prisoners are subject to continuous monitoring and sanctions, where appropriate.
Hedda Giertsen, “Prison and Welfare in Norway” in M. Pavarini and L. Ferrari (eds), “No Prison”, 2018, p. 149. ↩
Corrections officers are trained to deal with persons who inflict self-harm. They monitor them and encourage them to talk.