Up to half of the European prison population is composed of people sentenced for drug law offences and levels of drug use within prison vary from 1 % to 51 % of inmates, says the latest EMCDDA report. Acknowledging the existence of a drug problem within prisons walls often remains a taboo for many in the prison environment, both prisoners and staff. Lack of continuity of care and support throughout the criminal justice system, from the moment of arrest to release from prison into the community, contributes to failures in treatment and reintegration and is a major risk to overdose and death. Risk behaviour for infections has been reported in many European prisons and hepatitis C in prison populations is a growing public health concern in Europe, according to European institutions, while still many inmates go untested and untreated.

Care for drug users in custody is at the core of the ACCESS project - a European initiative co-funded by the European Drug Prevention and Information Programme bringing together organisations from different EU countries to disseminate knowledge and good practice on harm reduction and treatment services for drug users within the criminal justice system.

The ACCESS conference will take place in Milan on the 5 and 6 October 2012, organised by COMPASS, UK together with the ACCESS partner organisations and hosted by Università Cattolica Alta Scuola di Psicologia Agostino Gemelli/ASAG.

The conference happens at a time of unprecedented competition for resources across the health and social sector. At the same time, much research has been collected over years on the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of specific treatment and harm reduction interventions for drug users in custody. Dissemination of this knowledge remains a priority.

The event will therefore expose participants to EU and international policy development, research and examples of service establishment and delivery at local, national and international level on harm reduction and treatment in prison and in the criminal justice system.

The conference is directly relevant to professionals and service users from health, drugs and social organisations, as well as law enforcement and judiciary bodies, funders, academics, NGO representatives, politicians and policy makers at local, European and international level. The official languages of the conference will be English and Italian.

The conference organisers are seeking contributions from European colleagues interested in making a presentation. A call for abstracts will be open until the 31 May 2012. Abstracts should cover one of the following topics:  Drug policy reform; Working with peers in prison: roles, models, empowerment; Case management and interagency work in the criminal justice system; Needle exchange in prison and opiate substitution treatment in prison; Overdose and death prevention: continuity of care at the time of release; Human rights and access to care versus security: working with courts; Perceptions of crime and care: working with the media.

For registration and abstract submission, please click here.

For further information about the ACCESS project and conference, contact Cinzia Brentari, ACCESS project expert.

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