Home > Drugs and prisons in Portugal: synopsis and technical appendix of a research.

Centro de Investigacao e estudos de sociologia. Torres, Anália Cardoso and Gomes, Maria do Carmo (2002) Drugs and prisons in Portugal: synopsis and technical appendix of a research. Lisboa: CIES.

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The concept of drugs circulating and being trafficked and consumed in prison just as in the outside world is in the first instance not only strange, but it also tends to go against our commonsense notions. Do we not have the image of prison establishments as being fortresses, closed institutions, impenetrable by the outside world, where surveillance is a constant factor? How can illicit business be conducted when there is permanent control over the lives of the inmates and no privacy at all?

When we look closer, however, these ideas start to vanish. Just as in the free world, drug circulation in prisons is a reality in all developed countries, independently of their penal systems and legal frameworks. In fact, these fortresses are much more permeable than they appear to be. There are daily and permanent contacts established with the prison world by the suppliers of goods and services – e.g. meals, maintenance, education, training, health, medicines and other pharmaceutical and clinical products. Visitors are another source of almost daily interaction between prisons and the outside world, and so are the prison staff – e.g. administrative, health and rehabilitation technicians, surveillance and maintenance personnel. Last but not least, a specific group of inmates contacts the free world almost daily thanks to its special regime. These regular exchanges are the weak links, virtually unpreventable, by an institution that seems invulnerable and impenetrable.

Other factors explain, however, this permeability to drug trafficking and consumption in the prison system. The reasons that make drugs a highly profitable business opportunity – i.e. their illicitness and the high returns of their trade – also apply in the prison environment and are even taken to a higher and more serious level. Our major research aim is to assess and understand the prevalence and characteristics of the drug issue in Portuguese prisons.

Item Type
Publication Type
International, Report
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
Crime prevention
Call No
MO4.12.2.2, VH14.12.6
42 p.
Corporate Creators
Centro de Investigacao e estudos de sociologia
Place of Publication
Contains bibliographic references, tables and figures.
Accession Number
HRB 2268 (Available)

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