If incarcerated persons wish or if ordered by a court, they can receive psychological or psychiatric treatment. This includes standard care and crisis support as well as offence-preventing therapy.

Table of contents

Services and objective

Zurich’s prisons provide psychiatric, psychological, and psychotherapeutic care for offenders in their institutions.

The objective of the treatments is long-term prevention of recidivism in the inmates on the one hand and taking care of their mental health on the other. This includes preventing mental health issues caused or caused in part by their incarceration.

The treatments are either voluntary therapy sessions or court-ordered measures. Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Psychiatric-Psychological Service is in charge of mental health care.

Every year, the Psychiatric-Psychological Service (Psychiatrisch-Psychologischer Dienst, PPS) treats some 250 persons in offence-oriented, relapse-preventing therapies, of which about two thirds take place in institutions and one third is in the form of outpatient treatment.

The therapy sessions take place in prisons and correctional measures centres as well as in the form of outpatient treatments. Depending on the clients’ needs, the sessions can be individual or group sessions. The measures consist of several continuous, content-coordinated treatment sequences that are regularly evaluated and adjusted through internal team processes and external audits.

In the following, you will find a description of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s different psychiatric and psychotherapeutic services.

Outpatient treatments

The outpatient adult forensics department (Ambulante Erwachsenenforensik, AEF) implements court-ordered outpatient measures for adult inmates. If required and whenever possible, the expert staff also treats persons who are in indefinite incarceration as well as voluntary clients. The treatments generally consist of individual and group therapy, all the while respecting the individual circumstances and needs of the clients.  

Individual and group therapy

For individual therapy, client and therapist usually meet once a week for a one-on-one conversation.

In group therapy sessions, there are two to three group therapists and four to eight clients.

Topics that are treated in the sessions include: the clients’ life stories, personal crises, offences, and current topics.  

The AEF’s individual and group therapy sessions are offered to incarcerated clients as well as clients in freedom. Incarcerated persons are treated in the correctional facility. For free clients, Corrections and Rehabilitation provides therapy rooms in its headquarters.

Whenever possible, clients have the same therapists throughout their treatment. This means that the therapists accompany their clients from the beginning to the end of the treatment. The treatment usually begins while the clients are in prison and ends some time after they are released.

Inpatient treatments

The inpatient adult forensics department (Stationäre Erwachsenenforensik, StEF) implements court-ordered inpatient measures for adult inmates. Inpatient treatment consists, in part, of individual and group therapy sessions. For the most part, however, the clients are in a milieu-therapeutic setting in an inpatient measures ward of the forensic-psychiatric unit (Forensisch-Psychiatrische Abteilung, FPA) that is equipped specifically for this purpose.

First, in the context of therapeutic treatment in the general closed regime, experts evaluate whether the clients are suited for a milieu-therapeutic setting. If the requirements are met, the inmates move to the forensic-psychiatric unit, where they work extensively and intensely on questions concerning offences and prevention. During their treatment, the clients live in a therapeutically structured community. In this setting, the FPA’s employees support them in maintaining and improving their social competences and preparing for an independent, offence-free life.

This makes inpatient treatment a lot more intense than outpatient treatment. If the clients meet the necessary requirements, they can move on to an open regime and, later on, to day release employment or day release employment in combination with external accommodation. They will still receive treatment and go to therapy in these regimes, however, the topics that are treated will be different.

There are very few times in which clients are not suited for milieu therapy, in which case the StEF develops individual solutions.

Treatment of adolescents and young adults

Adolescents and young adults aged 16 to 30 are the clientele of the adolescent forensics department (Adoleszentenforensik, AF). By order of a court, therapists treat these clients in individual and group therapy sessions as well as in interdisciplinary learning programmes. The aim is to help adolescent or young adult offenders take responsibility and be in command of their emotions, impulses, and actions in order to sustainably reduce the risk of recidivism. A further task of the AF is to conduct risk assessments of the clients. This means that therapists try to assess the probability of the client committing another offence.

The AF team works on-site with the team of the Centre for Correctional Measures Uitikon (Massnahmenzentrum Uitikon, MZU). But first, clients go through a preparatory phase in another institution. If they meet the necessary requirements, the MZU takes them on.

At the Centre for Correctional Measures, the clients receive psychotherapeutic treatment and are integrated into a socio-pedagogical, workagogical, and educational treatment concept. The synergy of pedagogical measures, offence-focused therapy, and vocational education aims to help the clients prevent recidivism and make it easier for them to reintegrate into society.

When inmates reach a certain treatment level, they are moved into open settings; from the secure unit to an open ward, then to the »Wohngruppe Austritt” (group home before release), and finally to day release employment and external accommodation. The AF team supports and treats the clients during the entire process.

Psychiatric services

The psychiatric forensics department (Psychiatrische Forensik, PF) takes care of the psychiatric treatment of clients in recidivism-preventing, offence-oriented therapy. The head of PF also heads the unit for initial therapeutic assessments (Funktionseinheit Therapeutische Eingangsabklärungen, TEA) and coordinates the cooperation with primary psychiatric care, which is the care provided to all incarcerated persons in the canton of Zurich. It is provided by the Zurich University Psychiatric Hospital (Psychiatrische Universitätsklinik Zürich, PUK).


Psychiatric-Psychological Service

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Hohlstrasse 552
8090 Zürich
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