The international jury for the Stockholm Prize in Criminology Foundation has selected an unprecedented combination of winners for the 2019 Prize. Recognizing both an elected official and a policy scholar, the jury lauded them for shaping clearer choices about drug abuse. The Prize, which will be presented in Stockholm next June 11th, is awarded for their work as champions of creating better evidence, including field tests, of the effects of drug policy innovations on crime and harm. 

Ruth Dreifuss

As Federal councillor and Head of the Department of Home Affairs in 1993-2002, and President of the Swiss Confederation in 1999, Ruth Dreifuss was the principal political defender of a seminal set of experiments to test whether an innovation in the treatment of heroin users could help mitigate the crime and health problems of prohibition.  In these experiments, individuals who had failed in methadone treatment programs were offered Heroin-Assisted Therapy (HAT), the opportunity to inject heroin provided by the state in medically supervised facilities.  The question was whether HAT could be done safely and how it would influence the behaviour of the clients.  The evidence showed that HAT greatly reduced the criminality of the clients, while improving their health.  The result was the adoption of HAT as a routinely available treatment in Switzerland.

Professor Peter Reuter of the University of Maryland Peter Reuter helped increase international impact of the Swiss evidence as an outstanding translational criminologist for drug policy. Well before the Swiss experiments were launched, the Australian-born Reuter had spent decades examining the relationship between drug policy and crime. His work on this subject has supported the same insight as that of the Swiss field tests.

Peter Reuter

By studying the causal pathways through which prohibition and its enforcement influence crime and health, Reuter identified ways of improving outcomes in the context of prohibition. His multi-national studies on the effects of enforcement on drug prices and availability found that many of the benefits of prohibition can be achieved with light enforcement, while tough enforcement can increase crime without reducing drug consumption.  By explaining how treatment innovations, including the Swiss model tested under the leadership of Ms. Dreifuss, he provided clearer policy choices to governments and police in Brazil, Peru, Malaysia, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Vietnam, Uruguay and the United States, among others.   

Just as importantly, his research has pointed to the limitations of many prominent existing programs.  For example, his 1988 rigorous assessment of the interdiction of cocaine smuggling from Latin  America showed that even much higher seizure rates would only slightly reduce United States cocaine problems.  This study was important in reducing the share of drug control resources going to interdiction programs in the following few years.  He has persistently and effectively shown the inherent limitations of source country control programs, such as crop eradication and alternative development. 

Ms. Dreifuss stood alone in supporting heroin therapy trials, after governments of other nations refused to allow them. The trials of Heroin Assisted Therapy (HAT), directed by distinguished Swiss psychiatrist Ambrose Uchtenhagen of the University of Zurich, were attacked by many. Ms. Dreifuss stood firmly against the substantial popular protest about the launching of trials of such a heretical idea.  Federal councillor Dreifuss said that this was a legitimate inquiry and that policy should reflect the results. The trials that she so courageously defended provided the basis for further experimentation in Germany, the Netherlands, Great Britain and most recently Canada.  All these experiments had results consistent with those in Switzerland.

About the prize winners

Ruth Dreifuss is the President of the Global Commission on Drug Policy and chairs the advisory board of the Advisory Commission on Addiction of the Canton of Geneva. Educated in economics (BA) and econometrics (MA) at the University of Geneva, she was member of the Swiss Federal Council (the Government of Switzerland) responsible among others for public health, science and social insurances from 1993 to 2002.

Peter Reuter is Professor of Public Policy and Criminology at the University of Maryland in College Park. Raised in Sydney, Australia, where he graduated from the University of New South Wales, he earned a PhD in economics at Yale University. From 1981 to 1993 he worked at the RAND Corporation, where he founded the RAND Drug Policy Center. His 1983 book Disorganized Crime won the Leslie Wilkins Award as outstanding book of the year in criminology and criminal justice, and in 2008 he was elected a Fellow of the American Society of Criminology. He was the founding President of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy from 2007-2010.