Center for Rusmiddelforskning

Prison-based drug treatment in the Nordic countries

Projekter: ProjektForskning

  • Center for Rusmiddelforskning
Se relationer på Aarhus Universitet


During the last 15 years, prison-based drug treatment [PBDT] has increased in all Nordic countries. This development can be seen as a response to the general increase in drug use among prison inmates, but also reflects growing political concern for drug-related issues in the same period; and maybe a new way of managing poverty and marginality.
The increase in PBDT reflects a general growth in late modern society of what has been termed ‘troubled identities’; that is, institutions devoted to identifying and managing personal troubles. In the Nordic countries, such institutions are generally cast under the auspices of the welfare state, characterized by their inherent contrast between control and rehabilitation. In the prison setting, this conflict is very manifest and pervades all aspects of prison life, especially in drug treatment programmes making PBDT a privileged site for studying general institutional classes of rationales.
The project integrates three levels of analysis: Political discourses, Institutions, and Inmates. In our study, these levels integrate four central dimensions in social theory: context (prison drug policy), setting (the prisons), situated activity (interaction between inmates and drug treatment personnel), and self (experiences and narratives of inmates). Addressing the different levels brings the macro and micro analyses closer together and enables the project to be sensitive to the different timescales that are involved in social processes. In addition, it is our contention that drug users in prison occupy the locus of attention from three different and often conflicting modes of regulations: a) Penal: punishing, disciplining and controlling the criminal inmate; b) Moral: rehabilitating, empowering and offering drug treatment to the drug user; and c) Medical: treating the addicted physical body. In all three levels of analysis, we will study how these conflicting modes of regulation are simultaneously formed by and inform social reality.
The first part of the project investigates the competing drug political discourses framing PBDT. In the second part, we focus on how policy is put into practice in 9 selected Nordic prisons. Thirdly, we focus on inmates’ experiences, strategies and situated activity. The penal, moral and medical discourses created in policy and transformed by local institutions’ interpretations and concrete initiatives are certainly constraining: they produce subject positions and prescribe visions of reality. On the other hand, discourses and troubled identities only enter an individual’s self through social interaction. That is, whatever the typification (criminal, drug user, sick, empowered), the connection between personal selves and troubled identities needs to be constructed.

This qualitative research project is financed for three years by the Joint Committee for Nordic Research Councils for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NOS-HS).
Effektiv start/slut dato01/04/201131/03/2014


  • Prison, drugs, welfare-state, drug treatment, social identity




ID: 128930474