UNODC promotes alternatives to imprisonment for people with drug use disorders through health and justice cooperation in Kenya

UNODC promotes alternatives to imprisonment for people with drug use disorders through health and justice cooperation in Kenya

11 December 2018 - More than 30 million people worldwide are suffering from drug use disorders and only one in six have access to treatment, according to UNODC estimates. Many of them are in prison or in other ways in contact with the criminal justice system at some point in their life. The global prison population has almost reached 11 million people and has grown by 24 per cent since the year 2000.

To address this issue, UNODC started rolling out a training based on the new publication jointly written with the World Health Organization (WHO): " Treatment and Care for People with Drug Use Disorders in Contact with the Criminal Justice System- Alternatives to Conviction or Punishment."

From 4 to 6 December 2018, UNODC brought together over 40 justice and health practitioners from Kenya to promote treatment and care as alternatives to conviction or punishment for people with drug use disorders in contact with the criminal justice system. Participants discussed non-custodial options to provide treatment and care at different stages of the criminal justice process, exchanged information on challenges and opportunities and identified priorities for action to use treatment as alternative and address the specific needs of women with drug use disorders in Kenya.

During a site visit to the Kisauni treatment clinic in Mombasa, people in treatment shared their stories highlighting the negative impact drugs had on their life, the positive life change through evidence-based treatment and the ongoing challenges they face in finding employment and housing. One young woman, for example, explained how she started using heroin when she was 16, and that thanks to the Medically Assisted Therapy, she now works as a peer educator to help people who still use drugs.  

At a meeting with people who use drugs in an impoverished area of the city, participants were appalled by the level of violence, stigma and exclusion this group is exposed to daily. After the visit, participants developed action plans for the health and criminal justice system to work together to provide healthcare instead of punishment.

The workshop - supported by the European Union, Israel and Sweden - is part of a broader initiative exploring strategies and options to direct people with drug use disorders in contact with the criminal justice system, in appropriate cases, to the health care system, in line with the international drug control conventions, other relevant international legal instruments as well as health standards and principles.

This initiative seeks to operationalize Sustainable Development Goals 3 on Good Health and Wellbeing and 16 on Justice and Strong Institutions for a group at particular risk of being left behind.

Further information:

Treatment and care for people with drug use disorders in contact with the criminal justice system

The UNODC on Drug Dependence Treatment and Care

The UNODC Global Prison Challenges Programme

The UNODC Regional Programme for Eastern Africa 2016-2021

The project "Strengthening the Administration of Justice and Operationalising Alternatives to Imprisonment in Kenya (PLEAD Project)"