Penitentiary Medicine

The Penitentiary Medicine Department provides outpatient treatment, prevention and liaison services and hospital-type treatment if the clinical situation requires it (hunger strike, treatment prescribed, suicide risk).

It draws on medical, psychiatric and nursing resources which are equivalent to those provided to the rest of the population. It consists of intermediate care, provided daily to adult and under-age prisoners in the Canton of Valais. This includes admission, medico-nursing follow-ups, follow-ups on common treatments, acute care, and prevention and liaison activities.

The Penitentiary Medicine Department’s medico-legal assignments more specifically involve the Department of Security, Institutions and Sports, since they are directly defined by the administrative and legal office of the Office of Penitentiary Establishments in Valais (‘Service des établissements pénitentiaires valaisans’), and, in part, of the Population and Migrations Office (‘Service de la population et des migrations’).

More particularly, such cases include requests for clinical evaluations for the risk assessment commission, requests for the setting up of on-going and compulsory medico-social care, compulsory post-penitentiary monitoring, clinical evaluations for experts and the Probation Service, whose task it is to evaluate the degree of danger and the risk of re-offence associated with the prisoner or convicted individual.

Its training remit involves all of its partners as the medico-nursing and medico-legal activity provided constitutes an activity that requires specific knowledge. This remit also involves training aimed specifically at prison wardens.

Its liaison remit also involves all of the partners of the service agreement that has been drawn up with the State, but also players and authorities who are external to the agreement. The Penitentiary Medicine Department thus has the aim of organising all of the external specialist consultations that are required to treat the prisoner, as well as any hospitalisation in specialist penitentiary environments (Geneva, Basel, Bern) if the clinical situation requires it. It must also act as a mediator in relation to the legal authorities (judges, lawyers, etc.) by answering regular medico-legal questions regarding the imprisoned person.

This department also has a crucial public interest function which involves the whole of the social and political community in the Canton of Valais. The concept enables anyone to take part actively and responsibly in its work through cooperation to reduce the risk of interruption of psychiatric monitoring, by reducing the fragmentation and loss of information between the partners involved in supporting imprisoned and/or released persons in the Canton who require medico-legal monitoring.

The setting up of this kind of communication between the partners also ensures the continuity of the support requested by the Canton’s penal authorities. The service agreement provides for identical basic services for each site but also for services tailored to the type of support required. The department’s staff provide their services during working hours, 7 days a week, every day of the year. In case of any emergency outside working hours, an on-call team is reachable at all times.