Modern Management of Police Detention Centres: Safe & Healthy Prisons

Compared to the penitentiary system, little is known about the conditions in Austrian police detention centres (administrative detention, detention pending deportation). However, police detention faces several problems that will become even more pressing in the context of the current refugee crisis and as a consequence of the further tightening of the legal rules for asylum seekers and illegal residents. In police detention centres these issues refer to, inter alia, the prevention of suicide and self-mutilation, hunger strike, information on detainees, and infrastructure. In order to implement improvements, the ministry in charge of police detention, the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BM.I), needs information that is currently not available. Hence, in this project, three research institutions with proven expertise in security research cooperate closely with the BM.I in order to conduct comprehensive research in police detention centres, to identify and analyse existing problems, and to develop solutions by using a participatory research approach.

The key objective of the project is to investigate health-related issues and the social situation of detainees in police detention centres by considering the perspectives of detainees and staff, and to provide a scientific foundation as well as concrete measures for a modern detention management that ensures the basic rights and inviolability of detainees.

The IRKS is responsible for two work packages, one dealing with existing police detention data: As the state-of-the-art management of detainees requires sound data, the IRKS will analyse existing data and the way it is currently being used, in order to provide an assessment of potentials and deficits and draft a guideline for a reform regarding the use of police detention data (WP 2). In the second work package, the IRKS research team, while drawing on the WHO’s ‘healthy prisons’ concept, will investigate current problems regarding detainee’s health, security, and social situation in three police detention centres using a large-scale survey (WP 3). In a joint work package with our project partners, a series of participatory workshops will be held in order to develop adequate solutions for problems identified in the project. The results will be collected in a ‘portfolio of solutions’ that can sustainably be integrated in the work of the BM.I after the end of the project (WP 7). 


Project Leader 

Competence Center for Empirical Research Methods, WU Vienna

Project Partners

queraum. cultural and social research

Ministry of the Interior (BM.I)                                   

Project Period

oct 2016 to march 2018

Project Members

Hannah Reiter

Junior Researcher

Veronika Hofinger

Scientific Management

Walter Fuchs