Latvia: Official opening of Olaine prisons new unit for drug addicts

In the beginning of October, a new rehabilitation and treatment centre for drug addicts was officially opened at Olaine Prison in Riga. The construction of the new unit is an important first initiative to fight drug dependency in Latvian prisons.

The official opening was attended by several high-level officials within the area of justice in both Latvia and Norway, as well as the Norwegian Embassy in Riga, and marked a new shift in the Latvian prison system. With the new centre, shortcomings in the Latvian prison system, such as the total lack of drug prevention strategies and treatment programmes provided to inmates struggling with drug abuse, will be addressed.

In response to the increasing number of drug users in Latvian prisons and the implications this has for any meaningful attempts at rehabilitation, the new centre can accommodate up to 200 inmates in eight separate departments, and offer treatment for inmates with drug and alcohol-related problems.

Until now, there has been a lack of treatment programmes and facilities for inmates with drug problems in the Latvian prison system, and there are great expectations associated with the new prison unit.

“This is an important day for us. I’m impressed by both the effectiveness and quality of the construction work,” said Latvian Minister of Justice Dzintars Rasnačs when he participated at the opening of the new building.

In his speech, Rasnačs emphasised how important the new rehabilitation and treatment centre will be for inmates struggling with drug abuse or addiction problems:

“The new centre will contribute to help inmates prepare to re-integrate in society once released,” the minister said.

The project was carried out in cooperation with the Directorate of Norwegian Correctional Service (KDI), the Correctional Services of Norway Staff Academy (KRUS) and Oslo Prison’s department ‘Pathfinder’. While KDI coordinated the project from the Norwegian side, all three partners shared knowledge and expertise on drug re-socialisation programmes.

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