Latin America / Covid-19

The virus in prisons: coordination and contingency plans

10 November 2020

Overcrowding in Latin American prisons is one of the biggest problems facing the administration of justice. Since the pandemic broke out at the beginning of 2020, Latin American prisons have been grappling with the problem of containing the spread of Covid-19 among detainees. The unrest in Latin America’s prisons shows that the region’s systems are still under pressure from the pandemic.

Throughout the region, incarcerated people have needed to receive more visits from relatives, who often bring them food, and better health conditions to prevent the disease from spreading. Studies are also underway into the possibility of surveillance staff making better use of personal protection equipment. While supervising incarcerated people is quite simple, this does not apply to all the prison staff.

Fears of the spread of the coronavirus in detention centres has led many countries in the region to implement early release programmes to relieve pressure on the system. Almost 70% of prison systems have released some prisoners, most of them prone to disease complications and non-violent criminals. However, these measures have not been enough to improve the situation.

In this context, we thought it a good idea to prepare a document. Two experts in the field hired by EL PAcCTO, Nelson Rauda and Adriana Durán, with the support of the prison component team, have drafted guidelines for drafting Contingency Plans in prisons.

Strengthening the relationship between prisons and the health system

Together with the document, we consider it appropriate to present European best practices to stimulate reflection on the need to adopt contingency plans against the epidemic, including collaboration protocols between the prisons and health organisations in Latin American countries . Therefore, a virtual seminar has been organised in which representatives of prisons in Latin America and Europe (Italy) will participate as well as leaders of the Prison Management Department (DAP), responsible for the health network in prisons together with experts in alternative measures to detention.

The activity, whose  general objective is to provide recommendations on the best way to face COVID19 pandemic situations and other future pandemics in the prison environment, also aims to raise awareness in prisons in Latin American countries of the lessons learned and measures to be taken to face viral pandemics, strengthening coordination with the health system.

It is expected that when the “Guidelines for the formulation of Contingency Plans in prisons” have been disseminated and those responsible for prisons and health systems in Latin America have been made aware of efficient coordination methods, the prison system will be more resilient to viral emergencies and the infiltration of the CTO.

EL PAcCTO Penitentiary Systems Component

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