Fighting covid-19 outbreaks in prisonsBMJ 2020; 369 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m1362 (Published 02 April 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m1362
All rapid responses
With interest, I read the Comment recently published by Yang and Thompson entitled “Fighting Covid-19 outbreaks in prisons” . Prison health is of utmost importance to public health in general and people deprived of their liberty have the right to access healthcare and treatment as anyone outside of prison. But custodial settings are worlds apart, where one of the major structural problems is overcrowding.
Italy, which has reached 181,228 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of April 20 , currently accounts for more than 55,000 inmates in the face of an effective capacity of slightly more than 47,000 . Surveillance data from the National Guarantor of the rights of persons detained or deprived of their liberty indicate that 105 cases and two deaths were recorded in Italian prisons. Similarly, 209 prison guards were diagnosed with COVID-19 .
In this scenario, initiatives tending to reduce prison population seem to be a natural choice, by implementing schemes of early and provisional release for those inmates for whom it is safe to do so, as recommended by international authorities [4,5] and as many countries worldwide are doing in these days. This could stem the SARS-CoV-2 spread, save lives and preserve medical resources. Yet, Italian political groups and members of the judiciary say that extending this measure would be a capitulation to detainees, favoring the defeat of the justice system. Is that it then? Or are we at risk of not covering safety, health needs and human rights of people, although guilty as charged?
1. Yang H, Thompson JR. Fighting covid-19 outbreaks in prisons. BMJ 2020;369:m1362
2. Dipartimento della Protezione Civile. COVID-19 Italia - Monitoraggio della situazione. Available at: http://opendatadpc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/b0c68bc... (Accessed on April 20, 2020)
3. Garante nazionale dei diritti delle persone detenute o private della libertà personale. Emergenza Covid-19. Covid-19. Available at: http://www.garantenazionaleprivatiliberta.it/gnpl/it/dettaglio_contenuto... (Accessed on April 20, 2020)
4. Garante nazionale dei diritti delle persone detenute o private della libertà personale. Il Garante nazione nei giorni dell’Emergenza Covid-19. Available at: http://www.garantenazionaleprivatiliberta.it/gnpl/it/dettaglio_contenuto... (Accessed on April 20, 2020)
5. World Health Organization. Preparedness, prevention and control of COVID-19 in prisons and other places of detention (2020). Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe, 2020.
6. United Nation Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Advice of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture to States Parties and National Preventive Mechanisms relating to the Coronavirus Pandemic (adopted on 25th March 2020). Available at: https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/OPCAT/AdviceStatePartiesCoronav... (Accessed on April 20, 2020)
Competing interests: No competing interests