Preparedness, prevention and control of COVID-19 in prisons

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“People deprived of their liberty, such as people in prisons and other places of detention, are likely to be more vulnerable to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak than the general population because of the confined conditions in which they live together for prolonged periods of time. Moreover, experience shows that prisons, jails and similar settings where people are gathered in close proximity may act as a source of infection, amplification and spread of infectious diseases within and beyond prisons. Prison health is therefore widely considered as public health.

The response to COVID-19 in prisons and other places of detention is particularly challenging, requiring a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach, for the following reasons:

  1. Widespread transmission of an infectious pathogen affecting the community at large poses a threat of introduction of the infectious agent into prisons and other places of detention; the risk of rapidly increasing transmission of the disease within prisons or other places of detention is likely to have an amplifying effect on the epidemic, swiftly multiplying the number of people affected.
  2. Efforts to control COVID-19 in the community are likely to fail if strong infection prevention and control (IPC) measures, adequate testing, treatment and care are not carried out in prisons and other places of detention as well.
  3. In many countries, responsibility for health-care provision in prisons and other places of detention lies with the Ministry of Justice/Internal Affairs. Even if this responsibility is held by the Ministry of Health, coordination and collaboration between health and justice sectors are paramount if the health of people in prisons and other places of detention and the wider community is to be protected.
  4. People in prisons and other places of detention are already deprived of their liberty and may react differently to further restrictive measures imposed upon them.”

Source: World Health Organization

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