Policing Drug Users in Russia: Risk, Fear, and Structural Violence

Sarang, A; Rhodes, T; Sheon, N; Page, K; (2009) Policing Drug Users in Russia: Risk, Fear, and Structural Violence. Substance use & misuse, 45 (6). pp. 813-835. ISSN 1082-6084 DOI: https://doi.org/10.3109/10826081003590938

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We undertook qualitative interviews with 209 injecting drug users (IDUs) (primarily heroin) in three Russian cities: Moscow, Barnaul, and Volgograd. We explored IDU's accounts of HIV and health risk. Policing practices and how these violate health and self, emerged as a primary theme. Findings show that policing practices violate health and rights directly, but also indirectly, through the reproduction of social suffering. Extrajudicial policing practices produce fear and terror in the day-to-day lives of drug injectors, and ranged from the mundane (arrest without legal justification; the planting of evidence to expedite arrest or detainment; and the extortion of money or drugs for police gain) to the extreme (physical violence as a means of facilitating "confession" and as an act of "moral" punishment without legal cause or rationale; the use of methods of "torture"; and rape). We identify the concept of police bespredel-living with the sense that there are "no limits" to police power-as a key to perpetuating fear and terror, internalized stigma, and a sense of fatalist risk acceptance. Police besprediel is analyzed as a form of structural violence, contributing to "oppression illness." Yet, we also identify cases of resistance to such oppression, characterized by strategies to preserve dignity and hope. We identify hope for change as a resource of risk reduction as well as escape, if only temporarily, from the pervasiveness of social suffering. Future drug use(r)-related policies, and the state responses they sponsor, should set out to promote public health while protecting human rights, hope, and dignity.</.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: injecting drug use, human rights, HIV/AIDS, risk, fear, police, Russia, structural violence, oppression illness, harm reduction, sex work, eastern-europe, public-health, illicit drugs, hiv risk, environment, barriers, alcohol, cities
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Social and Environmental Health Research
PubMed ID: 20397872
Web of Science ID: 276766500001
URI: http://researchonline.lshtm.ac.uk/id/eprint/3798


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