The project has the European H2020 Work Programme SEC-21-GM-2016-2017 ‘Pan European Networks of practitioners and other actors in the field of security’ (category a) as a direct perspective.
It aims to establish an international network of forensic physicians and psychiatrists who work in police stations and prison. Depending on the country, these physicians act as independent practitioners or as members of structured institutional teams. They include forensic physicians, psychiatrists and forensic psychiatrists.
The communication between the involved practitioners, research activity and scientific publication are scarce, possibly because of the low level of involvement of academic forensic medicine and psychiatry in the fields of police custody and prison. For example, a number of conditions are present so that police custody could be a research topic: (1) a high number of arrestees (around 700,000 in France in 2010); (2) an emotional term that can make newspaper headlines; (3) harsh detention conditions that can make of any health problem a life-threatening event and any death in custody a reason to suspect police misconduct. This is a concern for all European countries. Health issues among detainees do have public health importance and law enforcement officers have a duty to protect detainees.
The scope of the project extends to all medical interventions regarding the health of arrestees and detainees. A number of unsolved problems persist despite a national conference on doctor’s attendance on detainees in police custody in 2004: role of local general practitioners, complementarity and articulation between somatic and mental health issues, interventions in cases of custody death, room for public health and prevention actions.
The project will cover: (1) the medical implications of less-lethal use of force; (2) the health consequences of violent situations at the time of arrest and during detention, including self-inflicted violence, suicide and other causes of death in custody; (3) the somatic and mental health assessment of detainees; (4) the safety and security of arrestees and detainees: access to care, emergency situations; (5) the health security of the police and custody officers. The homogeneity of the proposed network regards the profession of the participants, who are all medical practitioners and their intervention framework, that focusses on police custody or prison. The participants come from six countries and are all respected actors in the field in Europe.
The network aims to achieve the twofold objective of allowing those already concerned to cooperate and of identifying new potential participants across Europe who could join. We also expect a benefit at country level in France. From a longitudinal point of view, the project will participate in the continuity and the coherence of medical interventions from the time of arrest to police cells and detention in prison. From a transversal point of view, the project will harmonise the interventions addressing somatic and mental health issues and improve their quality.
The network will allow priorities to be identified as regards the domains requiring more standardization among practitioners from the same country and across European countries