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Type of submission: Oral
Conference track: Policy
Topics: Drug Policy Reform and Advocacy; Prisons and Detention
Presenting author: Laurent Michel
Laurent Michel, Marie Jauffret-Roustide
Until now, France did not implement the international recommendations on the principle of equivalence for harm reduction interventions between the free society and prison setting. The French National Agency for Research on AIDS and Viral Hepatitis (ANRS) supports since 2009 a research group on the infectious risk in prisons and the way to prevent it.
An inventory of the availability/accessibility of the harm reduction measures in French prisons, and later in different European countries, were conducted between 2009 and 2013. A qualitative survey assessing risky behaviors and the perception/acceptability of new harm reduction measures among prisoners, prison health and security staffs in France was conducted in 2014. A survey on drug use and associated risky practices inside prison started in October 2016 in several prisons through face-to-face questionnaires.
Results suggest that the infectious risk is real in French prisons (risky practices, low availability of the harm reduction tools, presence of illicit drugs) and that reluctance from staffs, particularly security staffs, concerning harm reduction interventions, including needle exchange programs (NEP), is less ideological than related to pragmatic concerns.
Outcomes and implications
The ANRS study group designed an intervention trial to assess the social acceptability of the implementation of a comprehensive harm reduction strategy in prison setting and the conditions for extension to all French prisons. The Ministry of Justice gave its consent in August 2015. Since 2016, the new French “Health Law” specify that the harm reduction policy needs also to be implemented in prison setting following the principle of equivalence with the free society. At the end of 2016, the ANRS accepted to fund the project. At the beginning of 2017 will start an intervention trial in the pilot prison of Marseille with the implementation of a comprehensive package of harm reduction tools, including NEP.