Rusmestringsenheter i norske fengsler – humane og eksepsjonelle?

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Substance treatment units in Norwegian prisons - humane and exceptional?

BACKGROUND - The treatment of prison inmates in the Nordic countries has been described as humane and welfare-oriented - often referred to as ‘Nordic exceptionalism’ AIM - This study explores how key actors working in 13 substance treatment units in Norwegian prisons assess the responsibilities, working methods and goal attainment of these units, and how their descriptions fit the idea of a Nordic exceptionalism. DATA AND METHOD - The data consists of qualitative interviews with 23 strategically selected informants of the specialist health care services and the correctional services. The interviews were analysed with the aid of systematic text condensation (STC). RESULTS - The results show that ‘rehabilitation’, ‘substance use treatment’ and ‘dynamic control’ are key topics for those who work in the substance treatment units. Overall, the informants describe the rehabilitation programmes in the units as intensive and as aiming to improve the inmates’ living conditions and social and cognitive skills, and to promote their reintegration into society. Moreover, informants state that inmates in the substance treatment units receive treatment from specialist health care services, and that the idea of therapy permeates many aspects of these units’ activities. Informants also state that they prioritise less repressive forms of control in the relationship to the inmates, and that these forms of control are favourable to rehabilitation.

CONCLUSIONS - The main pattern that emerges from this study supports that welfare orientation and ideas about therapy and rehabilitation are priorities in work with imprisoned substance users in substance treatment units. The control of inmates in these units is described as less repressive and favourable to rehabilitation. This pattern is not unambiguous, however, and the findings in this study may therefore help add nuances to the notion of Nordic exceptionalism.

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