Despite the daily efforts of care providers and the intense efforts of the Judiciary, drug and medication use in Belgian prisons remains high. The situation is not healthy in any sense of the word. Indeed, drug use entails various health risks and can place significant pressure on prison security. According to recent international survey studies, an estimated 20 to 45 percent of all prisoners use illegal drugs in prison, with very similar figures in Belgium.
As such, at the Interministerial Conference on Public Health on 20 November 2017, the Federal Minister of Health proposed the development of an adapted drug assistance model for prisoners. To this end, pilot projects were launched in December 2017 in the prisons of Sint-Gillis/ Berkendael, Hasselt and Lantin. Experience gained on the ground will be used to develop a broad assistance model that includes all steps, from screening and early detection to motivational discussions and treatment.
In each of the three prisons, additional care staff have been recruited and the existing care and prison staff have received additional training, so that prisoners with a drug problem can receive more personalised support. Furthermore, inmates are now systematically screened for drug use upon arrival, so that they can be guided to the right help more quickly if necessary. The relevant care workers inside and outside the prison walls are also in close contact with each other, which helps to ensure the continuity of care.
Three non-profit organisations specialised in drug assistance provide support on the ground: iCare (Sint-Gillis/Berkendael), CAD Limburg (Hasselt) and Fédito Wallonne (Lantin).