Páll Winkel, the director of Iceland’s prison system, does not believe the government is doing enough to confront the issue of those convicted of drug offenses, RÚV reports, pointing out that anywhere from 50% to 70% of Icelandic prisoners suffer from drug addiction. As such, he supports the idea of decriminalising personal consumption quantities of drugs.
On the radio show Morgunvakt this morning, he expressed dismay with the trend that he has observed in his tenure: prisoners addicted to drugs going through the system, completing their sentences and being released, only to relapse and end up right back where they started.
“I think we need to start treating these people as those struggling with a disease [rather than criminals], and I can definitely see within not too many years that these people will be able to use these drugs legally, and even that the government provides them these drugs,” he said.
Compounding the problem has been the recent decision made by prison authorities to bar visits to prisoners during the pandemic. While this has drastically reduced the amount of drugs smuggled into the prison, it has also had a profound emotional impact on the prisoners therein.
A bill was introduced to Parliament last autumn that would have provided legal protections for those who buy and use drugs, while at the same time continuing to prosecute the production and sale of them. The bill did not pass the second round of parliamentary discussions.
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