Prison healthcare

More than 11.5 million people are estimated to be in prison globally – the highest ever, and a 24% increase since 2000 (a rate slightly less than the estimated growth in the world’s general population). Prison overcrowding remains at critical levels in some countries, with prisons operating above official capacity in 121 countries.

The Global Prison Trends 2022 is Penal Reform International’s annual flagship report, published with the Thailand Institute of Justice, identifying the key trends and challenges in prison systems worldwide.

National drug policies that result in imprisonment of people who use drugs and those involved in illegal drug markets continue to be a major contributing factor to prison overcrowding globally (see Imprisonment and prison overcrowding).  For decades, punitive drug laws that impose disproportionate criminal sanctions have led to the imprisonment of millions of people worldwide for drug offences. Today, it is estimated that 2.2 million people worldwide are in prison for drug offences, of which 22% (470,000 people) have been imprisoned for drug possession for personal use. Additionally, across seven East and Southeast Asian countries between 440,000 and 500,000 people who use drugs (and unknown numbers elsewhere) are subject to civil or administrative detention because of their personal drug use.

To access the report, please follow this link>>>.


COVID-19 vaccinations for prison populations and staff

People in prison continue to be left behind in COVID-19 responses despite facing heightened risk of infection and illness due to cramped and unsanitary living conditions and lack of hygiene supplies in many detention facilities, as well as the poorer health status of prison populations compared to the general population. Even in countries with relatively high standards for places of detention, people detained and working in prisons have been infected and died of COVID-19. The latest available figures indicate that as of July 2021, over 575,000 cases have been recorded in prisons and over 4,000 people in prison have died in 47 countries due to COVID-19.

Penal Reform International (PRI) and Harm Reduction International (HRI) carried out the first ever global mapping of policies & practices related to COVID-19 vaccination in prisons across 177 countries.

This report presents the findings of global mapping of COVID-19 national vaccination plans and their roll-out in prisons. It provides analysis on how, and to what extent, prisons are included (and prioritised) in national vaccination plans, and documents the progress to-date in rolling out the vaccine in prisons. In doing so, this report sheds light on a critical aspect of COVID-19 responses in prisons, namely vaccinations, which are an important tool for ensuring that people deprived of liberty – who too often remain invisible to society and at risk of infection or in need of medical care – are not forgotten.

The report is available following this link>>>.


Global Prison Trends 2018

Penal Reform International published today the fourth edition of the Global Prison Trends 2018 at the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. The Report is prepared in collaboration with the Thailand Institute of Justice. It includes a foreword by the Rt Hon Helen Clark, Member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, Former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Former Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme.

The Report explores Trends in the use of imprisonment, Prison populations, Developments and challenges in prison management, The role of technology in criminal justice and prison systems and The expansion of prison alternatives. A Special Focus section looks at the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders in the era of sustainable development.

The Report clearly states that harsh criminal justice responses to drugs are a major contributor to prison overcrowding, and the ‘war on drugs’ persists in some countries with disastrous consequences. According to available UN data, 83 per cent of drug offences recorded by law enforcement and criminal justice systems are possession offences. However, more promisingly, UN bodies and an increasing number of states are rejecting this approach. Reforms include the decriminalisation of cannabis and reducing sentences for minor offences.

Recommendation 8 of the Report, based on the Sustainable Development Goals 3, 5 and 16, proposes that “States should review their drug policies in order to adopt evidence-based policies that include decriminalisation of minor offences, proportionality of sentencing, and non-custodial alternatives to imprisonment. Treatment as an alternative to imprisonment must be voluntary and human-rights compliant. Metrics to measure the outcomes of drug policies should include their impact on human rights, health and development”.

Also, Recommendation 25 proposes that “States should develop and implement alternatives to imprisonment, including restorative justice processes. A focus should be on addressing root causes of crime, including poverty and inequality, to support efforts to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Non-custodial sanctions should replace the use of prison, rather than widening the net of criminal justice control”.

The section on Health indicated that the rates for HIV, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases among prisoners remain much higher than in the general community. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates that people in prison are on average five times more likely to be living with HIV compared with adults outside prisons,263 although a higher estimate of 15 per cent is given by the World Health Organization. The Rapport recommends that “Drug prevention and treatment and HIV prevention, treatment and care should be available to people in prison at the same level is that provided in the community. Efforts to recruit sufficient healthcare staff in prisons should be doubled”.

To download the Report click on the photo of the front page>>>