Norwegian version of this page

Digital disputation: Punishment and welfare in treatment of prisoners with substance use problems

Janne Henriette Ingarsdotter Helgesen will be defending the thesis Punishment and welfare in treatment of prisoners with substance use problems. A qualitative analysis of empowerment and collaboration in Norwegian Drug Counselling Units. for the degree of Ph.D.

Original title: Straff og velferd i fangebehandling av rusmiddelbrukere. En kvalitativ analyse av empowerment og samarbeid i norske rusmestringsenheter.

The disputaiton will be held in Norwegian

Image may contain: White-collar worker, Businessperson, Official.

Janne Henriette Ingarsdotter Helgesen

Photo: PHS

Information for anyone who wishes to attend a digital defence

Trial lecture - time and place

Adjudication committee

  • Professor Peter Scharff Smith, Universtity of Oslo  (leader)
  • Professor Torsten Kolind, Aarhus University (1. opponent)
  • Postdoctor Ingrid Rindal Lundeberg, University of Bergen (2. opponent)

Chair of defence

Dean Ragnhild Hennum


  • Professor May-Len Skilbrei, University of Oslo
  • Associate professor Mette Snertingdal, KRUS


Treatment of prisoners in Norwegian Drug Counselling Units – balancing between punishment and welfare

Prisoners with substance use problems form a large part of the Norwegian prison population. Many of them are in need of and want treatment and rehabilitation while they are doing time. In recent years, separate Drug Counselling Units (DCUs) have been established in Norwegian prisons. These units offer tailored programs for prisoners with substance abuse problems that are based on modern principles in punishment and welfare. DCUs aim to support and empower prisoners as they work on changing themselves so that they better can cope with their own problems and gain increased control and self-governance in their own lives. Keys to achieve this are collaborative processes that cross organizational and professional boundaries and actively involve the users.

Prison-based rehabilitation is often presented as unconditionally positive, but it is rarely assessed by its actual efforts. This article-based dissertation provides a critical assessment of prison-based rehabilitation. The results show how empowerment and collaboration have emerged as penal and welfare policy ideals in Norway, and the dissertation examines how these ideas are practiced and expressed in the DCUs.

Comprehensive data on empowerment and collaboration

This dissertation analyzes comprehensive data material by using welfare and organizational-sociological theories wherein governance and collaboration are central. The data consists of observations at five DCUs and interviews with 72 prisoners, staff and leaders in The Correctional Services and Specialist Health Care Services.
The results show, among other things, that some of the DCU’s practice is in line with the political ambitions and empowerment ideals, which implies that treatment, rehabilitation and dynamic forms of control characterize everyday prison life. Prisoners also experience getting adequate help to cope with their problems. In other units, control and sanctions continue to dominate the treatment of the prisoners and treatment and rehabilitation measurements are still absent.

Management and inter-professional collaborative challenges

Regarding the collaborative processes between the different professional groups, the results show that these are negatively affected by the prisons' rigid form of management as well as how the employees are managed in the DCUs. At the same time, the employees' various organizational ties to the prison organization and various professional backgrounds also play a part in forming the collaborative climate. Overall, employees only partially succeed in cooperating with each other, which in turn means that prisoners do not fully receive the coordinated treatment and rehabilitation services that they want and are legally entitled to.


Published Apr. 1, 2020 12:45 PM - Last modified Apr. 1, 2020 12:45 PM