Coronavirus: Prison Fever
People are preparing, at different levels, for life in containment. But the COVID-19 does not stop at prison gates. // Updated on 29 March 2020 at 16:15
The COVID-19 epidemic broke out in December 2019 in the province of Hubei (China). The virus is spreading and is now present in 177 countries or regions. The number of infected people is of 680,000.1
People are preparing, at different levels, for life in containment. But the COVID-19 does not stop at prison gates. Prisoners often live in overcrowded cells and unsanitary contexts. They share cells no bigger than a few square feet, or collective dormitories. The general health condition of prisoners is worse than the overall population. Basic measures of prevention are hindered by poor material conditions and an uneven access to health.
What measures are taken to guarantee the safety of all prisoners and prison staff? What are the consequences of the pandemic on the living conditions in prisons? Here is an overview.
17 March. The Algerian Minister of Justice declared that all criminal and correctional court hearings were to be suspended until 31 March. He specified that it is possible to access long-distance judgment procedures. Exit permits for prisoners are only allowed in cases of absolute necessity. Civil and administrative hearings are still held in the presence of lawyers but without the parties to the cases. The minister announced a full ban on prison visits. Lawyers of prisoners are allowed to discuss with their client through a separation glass. In the same news release, The Department of Justice announced suspended day parole plans.
18 March. None of the measures taken by the government to curb the coronavirus pandemic spread apply to police stations, civilian prisons or prisons for remand prisoners. An anti-torture organization called for a ban on visits, or for the implementation of a disinfection system. The organization recommends that arriving prisoners should be confined for 48 hours before their admission in general detention.
19 March. The Minister of Justice suspended, until further order, all visits to prisoners as a measure to curb the epidemic spread in prison. Families are still allowed to send packages. Lawyers can visit their clients if they respect the indicated prevention measures. The Center for the quality of right and justice (CQDJ) claims that the Ouagadougou correction prison for remand prisoners is the only one complying with the adequate prevention means that are recommended by the health ministry (taking of temperature of inmates and regular hand washing).
24 March. The Minister of Justice forbade all public hearings of courts of justice, except flagrant offenses and private hearings. Visits in prison were also suspended.
20 March. The suspension of visits and the fear of the pandemic are at the root of a collective escape that occurred at Amsinéné prison. At least two detainees died and several were injured. Authorities do not report the number of escaped detainees. They claim that a medical team is on site to prevent the contagion in prison.
Democratic Republic of Congo.
19 March. The Clinton Foundation for peace (BCFP) expressed its concern after the president was addressed on 18 March regarding the feasibility and results of preventive measures in prison. Many prisoners depend on the packages and meals brought to them by loved ones and local associations, but delivery is now widely compromised.
25 March. Public personalities joined in the petition for the release of political prisoners. They stressed that “the only way to prevent detention centers from becoming virus spread platforms” is to “release as many prisoners as possible and keep the amount (of prisoners) at the lowest.” On November 19, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions reported that the rough confinement conditions endangered the health and life of thousands of prisoners. The Human Rights Watch organization called for Cairo authorities to release on bail to “prevent a disaster.” Theodora Christou, from the EuroMed Rights organization, claimed that social distancing is not possible in prison. She added that prisoner release, including those arrested arbitrarily, is the only way to limit overpopulation and spare avoidable deaths.
22 March. Prisoners from Tora prison, a.k.a. the “scorpion prison,” published a letter titled “Save us before it’s too late.” It exposes insanitation of the premises, as well as the absence of measures and equipment able to contain the coronavirus spread. It states that water is only available for two hours per day and that natural or mechanical ventilation is nonexistent. No device is set up to maintain contact with the outside world following visit suspension. Detained individuals are stressing the scarcity of medical visits and the difficulties of accessing hospitals.
18 March. Activists gathered in Cairo to call for the conditional release of Egyptian prisoners. Supporters and families of political prisoners have growing concerns while the contamination spreads. In June 2019, several publications reported the lack of hygiene in penitentiary facilities.
12 March. Human Rights Watch recommends that all governments of countries that are affected by the COVID-19 proceed to conditional releases of prisoners. In the notoriously overcrowded, dirty and unsanitary Egyptian prisons, the organisation says, freeing prisoners is the only way to avoid a disaster. Researcher Amr Magdi called for the release of a number of people imprisoned for “peacefully exercising their rights”. He states that the sanitary conditions inside prison facilities are deplorable and make them very vulnerable to the spread of the COVID-19.
10 March. The government suspended all visits to prisoners for period of 10 days.
19 March. the Federal Prisons Commissioner banned access to prison for the families of prisoners, lawyers and chaplains. The ban is planned for a minimal period of 15 days. He also announced that two centers of isolation and treatment of infected prisoners would be opened. According to the tests results, there are 6 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ethiopia.
25 March. Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT) reported the presence of two people tested positive for coronavirus in the Detention Center and Reformatory of Abidjan.
13 March. The first case of an infected prisoner was confirmed. The health minister announced a full ban on visits for prisoners for the coming 30 days.
19 March. The closure of courthouses to prevent the coronavirus epidemic triggered a mutiny at the Beau-Bassin prison. Several police units and helicopters were mobilized to restore order. The incident caused injury to 17 people among inmates and prison staff. One prisoner died.
24 March. The Moroccan Prison Observatory (OMP) called for the prison administration to release prisoners at the end of their sentence, minors awaiting trial, people over 65, prisoners of conscience and activists considered peaceful. A “glaring lack of infrastructure and medical personnel” can indeed lead to a wide dissemination of COVID-19 in Moroccan prisons. OMP also called for the Presidency of the Moroccan Public Prosecutor’s Office to postpone the referrals of defendants arrested while on trial and their actual trials.
18 March. The prison administration implemented measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. The number of visitors is now limited to one per prisoner and each prisoner is entitled to a maximum of one visit per month. On the same day, the administration specifies that no case has been yet detected in Moroccan prison facilities.
16 March. The General Delegation of the Penitentiary and Reintegration Administration (DGAPR) announced that the administration recruitment examination was to be postponed due to the coronavirus epidemic spread.
25 March. The government suspended visits in prison. However, the correctional administration is authorizing visits from lawyers and providing free phones to maintain contact with the outside world. A former prisoner of the Reubeuss prison and Amnesty International alerted to high spread risk in a context of overpopulation.
21 March. The Law Society of South Africa, which represents South African lawyers, is alarmed by the lack of disinfection being carried out in cells and courtyards. Lawyer William Booth encourages prisoners to request a cell change. The spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice confirmed the shortage of disinfectant products.
20 March. The Ministry of Justice announced thorough cleaning measures for all South African prisons to prevent the spread of the epidemic in overpopulated, ill-equipped facilities. Visits to inmates are suspended for a 30-day period.
20 March. On the occasion of the 64th anniversary of the independence of Tunisia 670 condemned prisoners were released and 1,186 were granted a sentence adjustment.
19 March. The President of the Republic declared that the sterilization of present facilities would be furthermore monitored. He called on the special Pardon Commission to examine the possibility of releasing certain prisoners so as to “alleviate the prison pressure”.
A statement was issued by 15 human rights organisations. It calls for a “drastic reduction of the number of prisoners” in order to curb the pandemic spread. The statement acknowledges the “public health efforts” already undertaken and suggests limiting the use of police custody and pre-trial detention. The human rights organizations also call for an increased number of conditional releases and for the preservation of family ties while respecting sanitary protection measures.
12 March. The prison administration announced that sanitary measures in prisons would be reinforced so as to curb the epidemic spread. The Tunisian administration plans sterilization operations, the acquisition of thermic cameras and the establishment of isolation cells. Arriving prisoners undergo a full medical examination before being placed in their cell. Special visiting rooms (allowing direct contact between prisoners and visitors) are suspended until further order. The introduction into prison of food packages prepared by the families (so-called “couffins”) is limited. The administration plans to implement information and awareness raising campaigns for prisoners and correctional staff on preventive measures.
21 March. Arua prison guards beat several prisoners who attempted to escape. Following the incident, police found over 30 abandoned uniforms near the facility while the administration managed to track down seven escaped prisoners. When interrogated about their motives, the latter expressed their fear of the spread of coronavirus in prison.
19 March. The president of the Supreme Court issued a circular to its services which specified the measures that need to be taken with regard to the epidemic spread. It instructs the suspension of all auditions and of the majority of judicial activities of the country for a duration of 32 days.
25 March. The situation in Buenos Aires prisons following the sickness is particularly tense. The IOP expressed its concern in an email addressed to the Assistant Secretary of Human Rights of the Supreme Court of Buenos Aires Province. It criticizes:
- the suspension of temporary leave instead of a possible house arrest
- the suspension of all visits from loved ones, through which detained individuals received food and medicines Argentina’s IOP also puts forward the lack of healthcare adapted for diabetic and injured prisoners. It pointed out that people suffering from digestive problems have difficulty eating. The association believes that prisons are in a state of health emergency. It is asking for fast and proper intervention.
23 March. Prisoners of Florencio Varela, Coronda, Las Flores and Batán prisons rose up. Some detainees climbed on the roofs, others tried to escape. One detained person died, and several were injured. They demanded sanitary preventive measures against the coronavirus. They denounced the lack of measures they consider elementary such as the quarantine of detainees, returning to detention after temporary absences, or the application of barrier actions by staff during team changes.
18 March. The Santa Fe prison administration announced that all visits are suspended until 31 March.
13 March. The Argentinian section of the International Observatory of Prisons sent a letter to the Minister of Justice and Human rights. The association shares its concerns about the current health crisis and the “explosive situation of the prison systems”. The OIP draws attention to the sanitary problems and the lack of food in the country’s prisons, many of them being already faced with outbreaks of dengue fever and measles. The Association calls the Federal Penitentiary Service to meet in order to set up a strategy and avoid a situation similar to the one experienced in Italian prisons.
19 March. No coordinated measures have been yet established between the Minister of Justice and the State prison administrations to face the current sanitary crisis. The implemented measures differ according to the kind of facilities, in particular between those managed by the central government (Federal Prisons) and those under the responsibility of each federal State:
- Federal prisons: the Minister of Justice announced on 16 March that all family visits would be suspended for 15 days and lawyer visits for five days.
- State managed prisons: measures range from the full or partial suspension of visits to the display or dissemination of a sanitary and prevention information note. In some facilities, visitors are screened and selected.
17 March. The administration of the state of Sao Paulo reported acts of protest and hundreds of prison breaks after the authorities announced the suppression of semi-liberty measures. The prisons of Monguaga, Tremembe, Porto Feliz and Mirandopolis were affected. The administration mentioned that some 1,000 prisoners might have “taken off”.
16 March. The authorities of the Milton Dias Moreira (Rio) prison reported on 16 March that four prisoners have been taken to the hospital with COVID-19 sub symptoms. The governor of the state of Rio asks for them to be reintegrated to the prison the next day. This prison facility is the most overcrowded in the State of Rio.
16 March. The tribunal of Justice of the State of Minas Gerais published an order on 16 March 2020 requesting all prisons to address the pandemic spread. It recommends that all people in semi-liberty and open prison regime should be placed under house arrest. This order is not applicable to those accused of a severe disciplinary default. Prisoners incarcerated for minor infractions such as the non-payment of alimony must also be placed under house arrest. The tribunal recommends that the situation of at-risk prisoners should be evaluated so that they can access to alternative measures to incarceration. The following groups are concerned: people suffering from diabetes, heart disorders, VIH-aids, tuberculosis, kidney failure, elderly prisoners over 60 and individuals in post-operatory situation. The tribunal highlighted that these measures are aimed at guaranteeing the safety of prisoners and of prison staff. It pointed out the current lack of beds in prison infirmaries.
22 March. The prison administration announced the interruption of the launch of a syringe exchange programme, proposed in nine of the country’s 49 federal prisons.
18 March. Most visits are suspended in Ontario until further notice. No cases are reported in Canadian prison facilities.
25 March. Equipo Jurídico Pueblos reported that prisoners are showing symptoms characteristic of coronavirus. A woman detained in the Buen Pastor (Bogotá) prison is in solitary confinement after becoming ill with a high fever. Many detained people from the Torre 5 area of the high-security facility of Valledupar have fever and feel dizzy. Ten of them were placed in solitary confinement. They are asking the prison administration to take the necessary steps to guarantee healthcare. Prisoners of the Torre 4 area of La Tramacúa are locked up in their cell as a precautionary measure. Prisoners say that supervisory staff would walk around, disregarding barrier gestures. Equipo Jurídico Pueblos claims that these situations add to the panic of detained individuals and their loved ones. The condition remains tense in many facilities. According to the association, it is aggravated by collective punishments and the lack of communication with loved ones.
— Contact with the outside world —
12 March. President of the Republic Iván Duque announced that all visits would be suspended in the 133 prisons of the country. This decision aims to protect the prisoners. The majority Union for correctional staff asks for the state of emergency in prison to be declared. It declared that the prison systems present “severe shortcomings in matter of access to health care”. Facilities do not benefit from “appropriate infrastructure, neither sufficient human resources nor sufficient technical and technological capacities to curb the eventuality of the epidemic spread.
— Acts of protests —
22 March. Many inmates rose up following a government announcement. Nine prisons were affected by the demonstration: Picaleña, Jamundí, Pedregal, Cúcuta, Picota, La Modelo, Cómbita, Palmira and Buen Pastor de Bogotá. Prisoners denounced the lack of preventive measures, declared a state of sanitary emergency and called for the adoption of measures tackling overpopulation. Authorities reported an attempted collective escape from the La Modelo prison, the most overpopulated in the country, during the uprising. Over 70 NGOs, including Equipo Jurídico Pueblos, denounced the exaggerated reaction of security forces: the lack of dialogue with inmates, the use of firearms and the excessive use of teargas. Twenty-three inmates died and 82 were injured.
24 March. Courts and prisons are unsanitary. Announced measures are impossible to implement according to the Bars Federation of Haiti (FBH) in the context of the pandemic. It warned about the “silence of the authorities regarding the fate of the prisoners crammed together in overpopulated cells and suffering, many, from malnutrition.” Loved ones manage less and less to supply necessary provisions to prisoners. FBH is calling for the planning of special hearings to release those imprisoned for misdemeanors.
12 March. The government declared a sanitary state of emergency. All visits were suspended. Correctional staff and prisoners receive protective masks when they are taken out for health care or to court.
18 March. The prison administration published a prevention plan for prisoners, correctional staff and visitors. The recommendations include taking the temperature and isolating those presenting fever symptoms, washing hands, using antibacterial gel and protective masks. The measures provide for an increased access to hygiene facilities and the dissemination of sanitary awareness raising information. Detainees who are sick with no need of being transferred to an hospital will be assigned in isolation areas. Visits are limited to one visitor at a time per prisoner. Visitors who are younger than 12 years old or older than 60 are not admitted. Visits were suspended for old or vulnerable prisoners.
11 March. Vice President Rosario Murillo announced that a “special plan” for the country’s penitentiary systems would soon be published. Health specialists are worried that nothing has yet been set up, fearing that the coronavirus wreaks havoc in the country’s prisons.
Visits are suspended in all federal facilities for a duration of 30 days, with few exceptions. This measure affects 175,000 prisoners.
The majority of prisoners are held in facilities managed by States or Counties. The response to the COVID-19 epidemic differs from one State to another.
- 11 prison facilities suspended all visits from families and from lawyers. Exceptions can be granted on a case-by-case basis, in Arkansas and Alabama for instance. The State of Rhode Island maintained urgent medical consultations.
- 36 States maintained the right to visits from lawyers. Some States recommended that the visits should be held by telephone (Connecticut, Idaho, Kansas). Other states organised ‘no- contact’ visits (Colorado, Utah, Virginia).
- In four States, the situation of visits from lawyers is yet to be clarified. By 17 March 2020, only the State of Wyoming maintained its current organisation. A map established by the Marshall project details, day after day, what measures are taken. The oversight visits of prison control bodies were suspended. The Marshall project explains that it has lost all visibility on what happens in prison. The independent control bodies of Illinois and New York have no more access to prisons. Lawyers, journalists and civil society organizations pointed out the lack of transparency of the authorities.
The prison administration of New York State announced on 14 March a series of measures with a view of maintaining family ties, including:
- the free provision of five postal stamps per week
- the right to receive 2 emails per week via a pad
- the right to one free phone call per week
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) explains the reasons for widespread concern: “Although people often think of prisons and jails as closed environments, they are not. Medical staff, correctional staff, and visitors come from the community into the facilities every day and then return home”. Prisoners circulate between courts, police custody and healthcare facilities. The material conditions of detention are poor: lack of space in overcrowded and under-ventilated cells, lack of soap and other hygiene products. The ACLU published a list to steer decisions that administrations may take. For instance:
- What are the circumstances that must lead the medical screening of individuals? How many tests must be ordered?
- If prisoners need to be placed in quarantine or given treatment, how should it be organised?
Correctional staff are facing a high number of arriving prisoners who must be placed in quarantine. The officers are overwhelmed and are concerned that they must transfer the prisoners to the sector hospital. A Texas prison guard reports: “I can’t imagine a local hospital giving inmates preference if they get to the point they have to make hard decisions on saving lives,” And adds: “We don’t have ventilators on hand at all. We are not a hospital. We don’t have the medical staff”.
16 March. The Los Angeles County proceeded to the release of 600 prisoners. The Sheriff recommends that law enforcement staff drastically decrease arrests. The number of arrests should decrease from an average of 300 to 60.
18 March. The San Quentin prison (California) places some 1,800 police prisoners in quarantine after detecting flu symptoms. Two buildings are concerned, including the unit for newly arrived prisoners
Chris Beyer is an epidemiologist at the John Hopkins University. He explains that no one should be imprisoned for a parking offense or because parole release is materially impossible.
18 March. The ACLU submitted a request to the Arkansas State authorities. The association calls for the release of prisoners whose remaining sentence is less than one year as well as the prisoners who are ill. The governor declared that he was not considering this option. He considered that the measures taken in the State prisons were appropriate and sufficient. Visits have been suspended and arriving prisoners are isolated from the others during 15 days. The State of Arkansas has 26,000 prisoners, 18,000 of whom detained in State prisons.
One prisoner was tested positive to the COVID-19 on Rikers Island (New York State). A correctional staff union reported that one warden was infected. Various calls are made to ask for the release of prisoners. A Department of Correction investigator has died, on 17 March from the COVID-19.
17 March. The COVID-19 epidemic poses an additional problem to the already precarious situation of prisoners. The organization Una ventana a la libertad called on the government to address the needs of prisoners. It highlighted that prisons are severely overcrowded (with an average occupation rate of 205%) and expressed its concerns on the suspension of visits. Prisoners rely greatly on the assistance of their families for food and clothes.
Coronavirus & prisons
Source — RTL
Source — Sarajevo Times
Source — Balkan Insight
Source — Reuters
24 March. Prisoners lack hygiene products, and water is dirty, according to Journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, released on March 17, 2020. he called for the release of the other imprisoned journalists. And added: “Picture 170 people in close proximity in the same cell.”
25 March. The government, temporarily and conditionally, released former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia for health reasons. She has been put on house arrest to receive medical care.
19 March. The Supreme Court prohibited the police and prison authorities from holding trials in the context of the spread of the epidemic.
15 March. The Inspector General of Prisons stated that each incoming prisoner is kept isolated for 14 days before joining the other prisoners. He adds that those already incarcerated will be checked one by one in all prisons in the country. The number of people allowed to visit their relatives is reduced to two per visit. They are required to observe precautionary measures: wash their hands, use disinfectant and not touch the prisoner.
On the same day, the prison administration denied the idea of conditional releases of prisoners and stated that no prisoner was currently infected with the virus.
The measures introduced were aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19 in the country’s 68 prisons. The Inspector General of Prisons announced in September 2019 that only 9 of the 141 prison doctor posts in the country had been filled.
24 February. Relatives of Uighurs placed in “re-education camps” are concerned about a possible spread of the disease. Former detainees reported deplorable conditions of detention and multiple violations of their rights: “Overcrowded and dirty cells, malnutrition, physical, psychological and sexual abuse, plasma and organ harvesting, forced labour… “. Amnesty International considers this fear “legitimate”.
21 February. The authorities reported that 500 people were infected in several prisons in the country. Among them, 230 were detected in the only women’s prison in Wuhan, the city where the outbreak was first identified. Two hundred inmates and seven guards at the Rencheng prison in the Shandong province are infected. At the Shilifeng prison (Zhejiang province), a warden reportedly infected several people after concealing a recent trip to the Hubei province. Many leaders have been dismissed.
12 March. Women in the Lo Wu prison are requisitioned to produce masks and hydro-alcoholic gels to meet the shortage. The prison administration confirmed that 100 women work night and day, between 6 and 10 hours in a row, 6 days a week. The prisoners complained about their working conditions, their very low wages (about 95 euros per month) and the consequences on their own health.
23 March. The prison administration of Tihar prison (west of New Delhi) announced the release of approximately 3,000 detainees within three or four days. Half of them, defendants awaiting trial, may be released on bail for four to five weeks. The other half, made up of convicts who have served less than seven years in prison, will be eligible for parole. This provision does not concern prisoners considered the most dangerous.
Prisoners in Tihar have been denied family visits since March to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The distribution of 10,000 masks and 1,500 hydroalcoholic gels was accompanied by health awareness.
Tihar prison, considered the largest in Southeast Asia, has 16 facilities housing approximately 15,500 prisoners.
18 March. In the State of Maharashtra, the authorities proposed to apply conditional release for persons detained for so-called “minor offences”. This measure is being considered with a view to reduce overcrowding.
17 March. The states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, where cases of infection have been confirmed, suspended family visits (mulaqats).
The Tihar facility is carrying tests on its 17,500 detainees. None of them showed the characteristic symptoms of Covid-19.
16 March. The Supreme Court requested the States and Union territories to communicate the measures implemented in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus within Indian prisons. The Court is concerned that overcrowding may prevent the application of the principle of “social distancing”. Occupancy rates average 117.6% in the country and up to 176.5% in Uttar Pradesh.
The authorities in Kerala and Delhi decided to set up isolation cells in which all prisoners with feverish symptoms are placed. All new entrants are placed in isolation for a period of six days.
15 March. The government of the State of Kerala announced the requisition of prisoners for the production masks and hydro-alcoholic gels.
18 March. The Minister of Justice and Human Rights announced a restriction on visits to the country’s 524 prisons and juvenile detention centers for people with symptoms characteristic of Covid-19. Detainees with the same symptoms will be cared for by medical services.
22 March. The government declared a state of emergency and announced the adoption of measures to “restrict public life” in order to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Human Rights Watch asked for the release of political prisoners and human rights defenders.
The organization called for urgent measures to guarantee the care and sanitary measures necessary to protect detainees and staff.
18 March. The Malaysian prison administration suspended prison visits. Communications indicated that telephones were installed in prison. Prepaid cards were distributed to prisoners. Families can pay for inmates to have more calling time. Planned activities (religion classes and lessons) continue to be provided.
The prison administration and management of the headquarters are working remotely. The body temperature of staff directly in contact with inmates is being checked. Anyone with fever above 38°C is receiving health services.
26 February. The prison administration announced the implementation of an awareness campaign on the risks of spreading of the coronavirus. It stated that it would monitor the temperature of detainees and visitors in the 90 prisons in the country. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocates providing prisoners with the necessary medical equipment.
16 March. Visits are restricted and beds are prepared in order to isolate patients. These measures are aimed at preventing the spread of the epidemic in the country’s 74 prisons. Overcrowding in these institutions amounts to more than 150%.
24 March. The first case of COVID-19 infection in prison was detected in Camp Jail, in Lahore District. Hundreds of people imprisoned for misdemeanors were released the same day, on parole.
Amnesty International and Justice Project Pakistan called for the country’s authorities to *“take measures needed for the protection of prisoners.”*Recommended instructions such as social distancing or handwashing are hard to observe considering confinement conditions. The amount of detained individuals in prisons is 77,000 for an average occupancy rate higher than 130%. The amount of beds is insufficient, cell ventilation is defective, access to healthcare and hygienic products is very limited. Both organizations recommended the release of the most vulnerable prisoners and people awaiting trial. The Executive Director of Justice Project Pakistan added that, if nothing is done, prisons and Pakistani detention places “will become the epicenters of COVID-19 virus spread.”
13 March. The High Court of Sindh ordered the authorities to conduct fumigations in prisons to control the spread of Covid-19. It also required medical examination of all prisoners. The deadline shall be one week after Monday 16 March.
The government announced that it would suspend visits for three months. The President of the Supreme Court requested the suspension of all civil court proceedings and trials for the next three weeks.
17 March. The Inspector General of Prisons visited the Lahore district jail. Prisoners and staff members are questioned about the hygiene measures put in place. The Inspector General underlines the recommendations to be followed such as the use of disinfectants, the complete medical examination of all persons entering the prison, and the frequent cleaning of cells and prisoners’ belongings.
19 March. Human Rights Watch calleds on the Pakistani authorities to ensure that detainees have access to medical care and to guarantee that measures to combat Covid-19 are effectively put in place. It warns of the state of Pakistan’s prisons, which are overcrowded, unhealthy and conducive to the spread of viral diseases. The organisation recommends the early release of those with the lowest security risks and those detained pending trial. It recalls that prisoners must enjoy their right to health and access to health care on an equal footing.
18 March. Overcrowding in the country amounts to 350% and makes it very dangerous for prisoners to live together in a context of the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic. Two professors, one in medicine and the other in criminology, are calling on the authorities to release on parole prisoners considered to be at “low security risk” and “non-violent”. They believe that keeping all prisoners currently held in Philippine prisons in times of epidemic would be “the equivalent of a death penalty”.
11 March. The prison administration suspended visits to prisoners. This closure affects 42 prisons in the capital region, Manila. Exceptions are made for people bringing food, for teachers and for lawyers.
18 March. Three guards and four cooks working in the prison facilities in the city of Daegu, gathering more than 3,000 inmates, tested positive for Covid-19. All movements, activities and visits were suspended. Two outside doctors were assigned to these facilities after all health personnel were quarantined. They are in charge of quarantining and monitoring on a daily basis prisoners confirmed to be infected.
21 March. Visits have been suspended. Families can no longer bring meals to their incarcerated loved ones. A mutiny broke out at the Anuradhapura prison in the north of the country. Deputy Namal Rajapaksa stated that, despite rumours, no prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Anuradhapura prison.
No escape resulting from the incident was reported. Two prisoners were killed by guards and six others were injured.
Sri Lankan prison facilities are heavily overpopulated. Some house 5,000 prisoners when they only have space for 800.
13 March. The prison administration limited visits to prisoners to one person per prisonner during scheduled visiting hours.
11 March. Prisoners can, if they volunteer, sew masks to help address the Covid-19 outbreak. This program has been in place since mid-February 2020. They are given a “small wage”. A prison official in Taipei says the prisoners produce 1,000 masks a day.
18 March. The prison administration ordered the suspension of all family visits from 18 to 31 March 2020. Families are still allowed to deposit money and food. The authorities stated that no detained person has tested positive for COVID-19.
Coronavirus & prisons
China: le coronavirus, une menace pour les camps ouïghours
This article is not available in English. This article is available in the following versions: French
Source — Reuters
China: Coronavirus Covid-19, quelque 500 contaminés dans les prisons chinoises, nouveau foyer de contagion
This article is not available in English. This article is available in the following versions: French
Source — Global Times
18 March. Luk Vervaet, former prison teacher and activist, writes on his blog: “The measures taken against coronavirus at society level bring us all closer to the experience of people detained in closed places: prisons, refugee detention centres or psychiatric hospitals. At the same time, this crisis teaches us that we have created forms and conditions of detention for those excluded from our society, which are already unacceptable in normal times, but which, in a crisis such as we are experiencing today, do not make it possible to ensure the health of those detained”. He calls for several measures, including the release of prisoners with less than one year remaining in their sentences and those awaiting trial. The latter account for 36% of the country’s prison population.
17 March. About 30 people detained at the Nivelles prison refused to return to their cells. They protested the suspension of visits.
12 March. A prisoner tested positive for Covid-19 at the Mons prison. The Minister of Justice Koen Geens decided to suspend all visits in prisons until 3 April. Lawyers, police, and health care personnel are temporarily admitted. A credit of 20 euros for phone calls is granted to prisoners to maintain links with their relatives.
24 March. The Minister of Justice announced the suspension of all visits and activities (education, training, workshops) in all penitentiary establishments from 24 March. Detainees will only be able to get out of their cells to access the showers, to access phone if they do not have them in their cells, and to do some exercise using social distancing measures. Only the jobs considered necessary for the functioning of the prisons are maintained: cooking, laundry, cleaning.
Authorities announced through Twitter the distribution of 900 portable phones in 55 penitentiaries to allow prisoners to stay in touch with their loved ones. It added that these phones would not grant Internet access. Means of allocation were not specified.
Thameside, Ashfield, and Doncaster prisons announce the granting of 10 free minutes of additional calls daily. The Minister of Justice is contemplating the release of 50 pregnant women, the transfer of 9,000 defendants to reception centers, and a greater amount of temporary leaves (for further information “*release on temporary license”*).
23 March. The correctional administration confirmed that 13 prisoners from nine prisons have so far tested positive for coronavirus. Around 3,500 warders, namely 10% of the prison staff, would be sick or quarantined. Prison staff was given 50,000 masks, and restrictions were lifted on hand sanitizer.
19 March. Seventy-five guards of the largest prison in the United Kingdom HMP Berwyn in Wales are on sick leave or quarantine due to coronavirus. Twenty-two prisoners showing symptoms characteristic of the virus prisoners were placed in isolation as a precaution. No restrictive measures are announced at the facility level.
18 March. The authorities announced the contamination of the first person detained in the United Kingdom. The patient, who was incarcerated at Strangeways Prison HMP Manchester, was transferred to the hospital. Thirteen prisoners were placed in isolation as a precautionary measure. Staff who had been in contact with the patient are quarantined. All prisons’ activities, including visits, continue to be unrestricted.
18 March. The Howard League published a letter addressed to the Secretary of State for Justice, proposing “effective and rapid measures to put in place” to “reduce an influx of people in the most overpopulated prisons and facilitate the return to society of those who could be released safely”. The organization asked authorities, among others, to review provisional detention cases, to pardon or reduce the incarceration of people serving short sentences, to stop imposing supplementary detention as a disciplinary measure, to release those who pose no threat and are vulnerable due to their age or health condition, and to release youth serving sentences under four years.
13 March. The Ministry of Justice announced the activation of an emergency plan to ensure the safety of staff, prisoners and visitors, with minimal disruption to normal operations. This plan includes case identification, management of staff absences if they need to self-isolate, and the provision and supply of soap and cleaning materials.
22 March. Prisoners of Uzerche Prison refused to return to their cells. Some went up on the roof and burned mattresses. They protested against the suspension of visiting rooms. A union representative explains: * “The visiting room is often what opens the door to the outside. (.) It is human contact that counts for these prisoners. (.) It is seeing their families, their wives and their children over the weekend that keeps them going. “* About 200 cells were degraded after the incident.
23 March. The Ministry of Justice announced that they will proceed with the release of 5,000 prisoners at the end of their sentence.
18 March. A first prisoner died as a result of Covid-19 in the Fresnes prison.
14 March. The fight against the spread of the coronavirus is organised behind closed doors. The authorities reported one inmate and two nurses tested positive for Covid-19. About 30 detainees were placed in quarantine.
15 March. The prison administration communicated a list of instructions.
It increases the isolation of detainees. Activities and movements are restricted or suspended.
Visits are limited to one adult per visit and per prisoner. The following are excluded: persons over 70 years of age, minors and persons suffering from chronic or respiratory diseases.
The Minister of Justice announced a continuance plan (PCA). This leads to “a reduction in the number of visits and a limitation of the activities”. Coronavirus referents must be designated by the prison director. They are in charge of implementing the system for limiting the risks of propagation, renewing hygiene kits for prisoners (in particular soap and cleaning products) and informing visitors. Flyers with hygiene instructions must be displayed on the premises.
All newly arrived prisoners undergo a medical examination and answer a questionnaire to find out whether they come from a risk area, have been in contact with people who may have been infected or are in quarantine.
Cells are set up within the incoming wards to isolate at-risk prisoners. Precautionary measures will be taken on a case-by-case basis, facility by facility, depending on the areas where the virus circulates. The judicial authorities are invited to encourage the use of videoconferencing rather than extracting detainees who have to appear in court.
The association for the defence of prisoners’ rights (A3D) requested the release of prisoners who are at the end of their sentences and those in pre-trial detention.
The French section of the International Prison Watch (OIP-fr) questioned the prison administration’s ability to free up cells.
19 March. The Ministry of Justice issued a press release on “prison support” measures. A set of decisions is due to take effect on 23 March:
- allocation of a credit of 40 euros to each prisoner’s telephone account. This sum can be used from telephone booths (in all prisons) or from the telephones placed inside cells (64 prisons are equipped).
- television is accessible free of charge
- the most destitute detainees have their aid increased by 40 euros per month
The Ministry of Justice asked the courts to defer the enforcement of short prison sentences. About 30 entries in prison are recorded, “against more than 200 usually”, according to the press release.
17 March. The head of the French national preventive mechanism (CGLPL) called upon the Minister of Justice. She believes that the safety of detainees is not guaranteed. She describes a “situation of serious health risk” and calls for “immediate and concrete*” measures. She recommends limiting entry and encouraging exit from prison.
19 March. An opinion piece called for a reduction in “prison pressure”. More than 1,000 people (researchers, public figures, magistrates, lawyers and associations) are signatories.
The CGLPL, the French section of the International Prison Watch and the Magistrates’ Union urge the Ministry of Justice to resort to individual pardons and amnesties.
The Defender of Rights calls on the government to take measures to reduce prison overcrowding. He calls on the Minister of Justice to instruct the courts to make use of judicially supervised releases.
23 March. Some 100 inmates at the Rennes-Vezin prison addressed a tribune of prison and government authorities. They claimed being put in “mortal danger” and called for the “decongestion of all prisons”. They claimed “strict” hygiene rules were impossible due to overcrowding.
To learn more, consult the news thread in the Observatoire international des prisons – section française dedicated to COVID-19. It is updated regularly.
22 March. The Hamburg prison released 40 people. The Berlin prison released 18 others.
20 March. Three employees of Hohenasperg (Baden-Württemberg) Penitentiary Hospital tested positive and were quarantined.
19 March. Visits, walks, and activities have been restricted.
13 March. There are 4,200 prisoners in Irish prisons. Faced with the risk of the epidemic spreading within its facilities, the prison administration announced strict restrictions on visits. Visits are limited to 15 minutes, once a week per prisoner. Visitors under the age of 18 and those with flu symptoms are not admitted.
16 March. The government adopted a decree amending the regulations regarding house arrest. 2,000 to 3,000 people could be released in the coming weeks. The Italian Coalition for civil liberties and rights considers these changes insufficient. It calls on the authorities to extend these measures to detainees who are particularly vulnerable because of their age or health.
The visits suspension triggered revolts in several prisons in the country. Twelve prisoners died. The association Antigone has documented the timeline of events and published a set of recommendations to manage the epidemic in prisons.
23 March. The prison administration announced the suspension of all prison visits.
23 March. Polish authorities checked 75,000 detained individuals in the 172 prisons and detention centers. To curb coronavirus spread, the Minister of Justice planned to extend house arrests under electronic surveillance. This measure would benefit around 12,000 convicts. Visits and work outside their enclosure are forbidden. Sewing workshops were set up in many prisons to make masks and protective suits.
18 March. Three inmates died and two were seriously injured after a fire at the Satu Mare prison in north-west Romania. The detainees started the fire by burning their mattresses to protest the restrictions, including reduced visiting hours, imposed as part of the Covid-19 epidemic.
23 March. The Moscow Bar Association published an appeal to criminal lawyers. The appeal encourages them to call for emergency measures to be put in place for prisoners, especially for older prisoners and those with chronic illnesses. The Bar association statement is intended for lawyers, about the seriousness of the current situation resulting from the spread of COVID-19. It invites lawyers to ensure information is made available about the result of such appeals. The Federal Association of Russian Bars welcomes the initiative and invites other Russian Bars to launch similar appeals.
19 March. Thirteen Russian organisations have signed an appeal to international organisations calling for proper measures to be put in place to protect the health and safety of prisoners. The activists are calling for the release of prisoners convicted of minor offences, and the implementation of preventative measures, such as house arrests.
18 March. The government asked prison administration to start producing masks for the prisoners.
16 March. The prison administration of Russia (FSIN) cancelled family visits in the country’s prisons until further notice. Lawyers are permitted to meet with prisoners. Prisoners with symptoms, or thought to have been contaminated by COVID-19 virus, are allowed to go to civilian hospitals. See the FSIN press release in Russian.
24 March. Administration suspended visits in all facilities as from 24 March.
19 March. The prison administration confirmed two cases of Covid-19 at HMP Kilmarnock. It added that 28 other detainees show symptoms characteristic of the virus. The latter are required to remain isolated in their cells for seven days. Scottish prisons’ activities are under no restriction.
20 March. Eleven warders and three detained individuals have tested positive since the start of the epidemic. About 60 prisoners showing symptoms or having been in contact with sick people were quarantined.
18 March. The Minister of the Interior announced that prisoners on a day parole system would be able to sleep at home.
17 March. Prison staff from several institutions, including the Navalcarnero prison (Madrid), tested positive for coronavirus. The professional association of prison officers (APFP) denounced, on the same day, the lack of prevention and coordination of the fight against the epidemic in all the facilities.
15 March. All visits and temporary leaves were suspended. The Minister of the Interior declared a state of alert.
11 March. Twelve prisons are placed in containment with the aim of strengthening preventive measures. Some 300 of their 8,000 prisoners have reportedly escaped.
20 March. The Order of Lawyers of Geneva requested the implementation of the granting of releases on parole at mid-sentence and the release, as much as possible, of people on remand. One person is infected at Champ-Dollon prison. She was transferred to the administrative detention center of Frambois to prevent infection of other people. Department Head of Prison Medicine of Geneva explains: “We are on a war footing.” Measures have been taken: an area reserved for newcomers was set up, a night medical post allows to watch for people showing symptoms, staff is wearing masks, and surfaces are regularly cleaned.
16 March. Until further notice, the courts in all cantons will limit themselves to “mandatory tasks”.
10 March. The prison facilities of the canton of Geneva announced the implementation of preventive measures at the prisons’ entrance to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. A body temperature check and a systematic visual check will be carried out for every person entering a facility. Persons showing symptoms may be refused entry.
19 March. The prison administration confirmed a prisoner’s positive test for coronavirus at the hospital ward of the Scheveningen prison. About 20 prisoners are isolated as a precautionary measure.
14 March. Various measures have been taken “to limit the number of contacts and thus the risk of contamination”. Any prisoner showing symptoms characteristic of COVID-19 is placed in isolation. Visits are prohibited, except for lawyers and parents/guardians for juvenile prisoners. Prisoners with day or weekend leave permits are temporarily prohibited from leaving the prison premises.
24 March. About 100 of Ukrainian and European NGOs signed an official statement to bring awareness to the situation in Crimea and Donbass prisons, regions under the effective control of the Russian Federation.
Visits were suspended after March 16. Prisoners can no longer receive medicines and other essential goods usually brought by their loved ones. Signatories warned about the impossibility of implementing necessary health and protection measures. Health services in prison were described as faulty. No prevention measure has been planned for the showers, work, or body search of detained individuals.
The organizations called for international organizations and Russia to immediately take necessary measures to ensure the prisoners’ health in the context of the COVID-19 epidemic and enforce their international commitments.
Coronavirus & prisons
Source — RTL
Source — Sarajevo Times
Source — Balkan Insight
Source — Reuters
23 March. The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, the MENA rights group, and 38 other organizations called for the governments of the Middle East-Africa region to take emergency measures to protect prison populations from the COVID-19 virus epidemic. They encouraged the States to make their action plan public, organize specific training for the correctional administration staff, and guarantee the right to healthcare access for all prisoners, namely the most vulnerable.
King Al Khalifa of Bahrain orders by decree the release of 901 prisoners in order to stop the spread of Covid-19. The prison sentences of another 585 detainees will be commuted to a rehabilitation and training programme.
21 March. A tentative escape occurred at the Parsilon prison in Khorramabad, in the west of the country. A coordinated indoor vs. outdoor attack led to an assault. The assailants killed two or three guards. Two hundred and fifty prisoners attempted to escape. Guards and security forces opened fire. Many prisoners were beaten. Control points were set up, martial law was declared. The administration raided nearby homes in search of fugitives. Testimonials mentioned the prison administration’s refusal to quarantine prisoners with COVID-19. The latter received no care or antiviral products. The administration informed families of prisoners that these basic services are their responsibility.
20 March. Iran released temporarily 85,000 prisoners. The speed at which the epidemic is spreading in the country raises fears of an extreme deterioration of prison conditions in overcrowded, unsanitary prisons with little capacity to provide access to medical care. Test kits are not available in sufficient numbers. Testimonials report dozens of detainees suffering from persistent coughs and high fever.
Iranian public television reported that another 10,000 detainees are being pardoned on the occasion of the traditional Iranian holiday, “Norouz,” on 20 March.
3 March. The country is the third most affected in the world with nearly 18,000 confirmed cases. The government announced the temporary release of 54,000 prisoners who tested negative for coronavirus. This decision aims at stemming the spread of the virus in an environment where overcrowding is the main danger.
25 March. Mahmoud Abbas signed a release order for prisoners who have served at least half of their sentence at institutions under Palestinian authority. These provisions do not concern prisoners sentenced for serious offenses. The amount of pardoned people is not known.
Hamas released 87 prisoners and 526 others on parole in the Gaza Strip. Individuals who remain detained cannot receive visits. They are allowed one phone call.
21 March. Palestinian prisoners threatened to start a hunger strike in many Israeli prisons. They blame the administration for not taking enough health measures in the face of the coronavirus epidemic. They mentioned gloveless or maskless contacts with warders. Prisoners are refusing their breakfast. They are denouncing the administration’s decision to remove more than 140 health products, soap, and shampoo previously present in the dining halls. They are planning a hunger strike in April.
19 March. The prison administration announced according to the Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS), the identification of four cases of Covid-19 to the prisoners of the Meggido prison. The authorities denied the information, stating that the four detainees are symptom-free. They reportedly had informed the relatives of the four prisoners of their solitary confinement without specifying the results of the medical tests or the location of the sick prisoners. They publicly added, on the same day, that there are no cases of Covid-19 in Israeli prisons.
The PPS calls on the administration to provide greater protection for detainees, including through the distribution of hydro-alcoholic gels and the implementation of preventive measures.
The Palestinian Prisoners’ Affairs Committee reports cases of quarantine in Ashkelon, Ramla and Moscovia detention centre in Jerusalem. The Israeli authorities announced that a prison close to the Egyptian border is being evacuated and used to quarantine detainees.
In early March, the authorities suspended all family visits to prisoners until further notice. Shortly thereafter, the Israeli Ministry of Security banned lawyer visits for a renewable one-month period, except for “urgent cases”. The authorities specify that telephone contact would be possible, at the request of the detained person or his lawyer.
The Palestinian association Addameer deplores the fact that these measures do not prevent investigators from continuing proceedings against persons not yet charged. It also calls on the Israeli authorities to put in place preventive procedures to protect prisoners from the spread of Covid-19.
18 March. The State Security Court decided to release 1,500 defendants arrested for national security offences to counter the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
14 March. The authorities announced a ban on prisoners visits. These measures led to a riot in the Irbid provincial prison, where two prisoners died.
22 March. Kuwait imprisoned three Egyptian residents for a period of twelve days due to the dissemination of false information about the coronavirus epidemic. A Kuwaiti citizen was sentenced to twelve days in prison for posting information on Tweeter that dozens of Egyptians infected with COVID-19 are currently in the hospital. According to the Al-Qabas newspaper police denied the information.
23 March. Ninety percent of prisoners continued their hunger strike, except for the sick and the elderly. They demanded general amnesty and affirmed their right to be informed of all health risks.
Visits are limited to just one family member. They take place in visiting rooms with separation systems.
Judges and lawyers attempted to lower the number of incarcerations and increase the conditional release of prisoners.
Sources close to the Ministry of Justice indicated that Minister Marie Claude Najm is currently working on the conditional release of prisoners awaiting their sentence or incarcerated for so-called minor offenses.
The Lebanese bar of lawyers indicated that around 80 prisoners were released among those sentenced or detained for fines. This is still the case for one hundred and twenty other prisoners.
16 March. Two riots occurred in the overcrowded prisons of Rumaniah and Zahle. These events followed the demands of prisoners for their temporary release in fear of the spread of Covid-19 within the facilities.
These are not requests and mainly concern persons detained for so-called “minor” offences such as drug use or possession. A dozen prisoners began a hunger strike on 16 March.
24 March. Riots broke out in Qatari penal institutions. Detainees from cells 2 and 3 of Doha central prison attacked a guard and burned several cells. The same source said that the administration refused to release prisoners despite the spread of COVID-19 in prisons. The mutineers were placed in solitary confinement and deprived of water, food and cigarettes. Some of them were transferred to a prison in the heart of an industrial center despite the quarantine due to the spread of COVID-19.
24 March. The authorities of the country announced the release of hundreds of people detained at Al-Shumaisi prison on 24 March. They specify that these people were imprisoned for violation of the residence permit or for conviction in criminal cases.
Prodemocratic activists called for the release of political prisoners due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The Interior Ministry decided to put in place a curfew with a fine of 10,000 Saudi riyals for any violation of this provision.
23 March. The leader of the Palestinian party Hamas requested the release of Palestinian detainees from Saudi jails to limit the spread of COVID-19. At least 68 detainees are present in Saudi prisons because of ties to Hamas.
18 March. The Saudi authorities took the decision to close all courts of law for two weeks and suspend all visits to prisoners.
The Saudi prisoners’ rights organisation “Prisoners of Conscience” launched, in early March 2020, a Twitter campaign calling for the release of prisoners in the context of the spread of the coronavirus. The activists highlighted the deplorable hygienic conditions in Saudi prisons as well as the large number of political prisoners. They insisted that the most vulnerable are the elderly and that they are numerous in Saudi prisons.
24 March. According to statistics and images transmitted by a source, hundreds of people are said to have died because of the coronavirus in prisons in the Syrian capital. Nearly a thousand detainees are suspected to be infected at Adra prison and dozens in “critical condition”. Doctors specified that a spread of the COVID-19 virus in the country would have a “devastating” effect.
22 March. the Syrian state announced, the signing of an amnesty decree. The first case was recorded on the same day among the Syrian population.
24 March. The Turkish Government Party (Justice and Development Party, PJD) are working on a bill to release a number of prisoners due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Various sources indicate that prisoners who are repeat offenders or whose criminal situation is linked to terrorism, drugs or sexual abuse will not be affected by the early release measure. Around 100,000 are targeted. The bill will be discussed this week in Parliament. Human rights activists request that political detainees be included in the beneficiaries of this decision. Seven people were arrested and detained for reporting cases of COVID-19 infection in Turkey, including the editor-in-chief of SES Kocaeli, İsmet Çiğit. He was arrested following the publication of a paper reporting the death of two people in Sopalı because of the coronavirus. He was released the next morning.
18 March. The Secretary General of the Turkish Medical Union (ATC) said that he was particularly concerned about the lack of protective measures in place in Turkish prisons. He recommends the house arrest or release of those held in preventive detention to slow the spread of the epidemic.
17 March. Nine human rights organisations and trade unions published a list of 14 precautions to be taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in prisons.
16 March. The Turkish courts announced the postponement of the hearings scheduled due to the spread of Covid-19. Only exceptional measures are taken, such as the issuance of arrest warrants. The Minister of Justice announced the suspension of visits for the 282,000 people officially detained in Turkish prisons.
United Arab Emirates.
19 March. Human Rights Watch (HRW) recommended the conditional release of prisoners with diseases such as HIV/AIDS in the context of the spread of coronavirus. The organisation stated in November 2019 that these particularly vulnerable prisoners were being denied vital medical treatment. HRW points out that prison overcrowding, dirt, unhygienic conditions, and the lack or absence of medical care are all potentially aggravating factors in the epidemic.
The association Mothers of Abducted Yemenees expressed their concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Houthi detention centers in Yemen. Thousands of people are detained there.
The association is organizing a rally in the town of Ibb on Mother’s Day. They call for detainees that were forcibly abducted to be released before COVID-19 reaches the Houthi prison in Ibb. This is the fifth year in a row that the association has manifested outside prisons to denounce the spread of illnesses due to the lack of medical care.
The mothers point out that dozens of forcibly abducted people have died in these prisons due to neglect, illness and torture. They called on the United Nations, legal organizations and the Red Cross to intervene immediately. The UN Ambassador to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, also called for the release of detainees and abductees to prevent their contamination by COVID-19.
22 March. New South Wales Attorney General announced the conditional release of several hundred state prisoners in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in prisons. Several Aboriginal associations welcome this decision with relief. However, they require more ambitious measures. The Aborigines, who account for only 2.5% of the Australian population, represent 27.4% of the prison population of the country and are more susceptible to many pathologies.
19 March. The State of New South Wales suspends all visits until 22 March. It announces that it will provide 600 digital tablets for video-conference visits to detainees.
Correctional staff and prisoners are being tested in Queensland as a precautionary measure. Authorities in South Australia are preparing for crisis scenarios that would generate a possible spread of the coronavirus in prisons. The State of Queensland and Western Australia announce the establishment of special units to manage the situation.
Australia incarcerates 43,000 people. One third of them suffer, in 2018, from a chronic disease such as diabetes.
Papua New Guinea.
19 March. Prisons in Papua New Guinea, where cases of malaria and typhoid fever are documented, are preparing for the coronavirus epidemic. The Minister of Correctional Services announces a total containment of the facilities. Every new prisoner is tested on admission. Visits are suspended until further notice. The administration is in the process of recruiting new carers, with the assistance of the Ministry of Health.
Researchers and prison staff fear the arrival of coronavirus in New Zealand prisons. Several suspected cases isolated in Waikeria and Rotorua prisons have tested negative.
The Prison Service had implemented certain health precautionary measures last year during a measles outbreak at Mt Eden prison and Auckland prison for women.
The interactive map of the John Hopkins University
The call of 42 European NGOs to international institutions including the WHO and the Council of Europe
The statement of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) for the establishment of effective measures to protect public health and safety, including for the most vulnerable
The briefing note by Penal Reform International
The article COVID-19 in prison by the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) in Geneva, Switzerland
The statement of principles related to the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in the context of Covid-19 by the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT)
Joint statement of 26 national and international stakeholders calling for immediate emergency measures to protect the rights of prisoners in Africa
Interim recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) on the COVID-19 management in prisons and other places of detention