Friday 27 November, 2020

CCHR: COVID-19 in prisons is threat to public health

Stock photo.

Stock photo.

The Caribbean Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) said the spread of COVID-19 at the nation's prisons is a threat to public health and is calling for steps to better protect prison populations. 

In a statement the group said it has noted that over 80 prisoners have tested positive for the virus to date:

'The CCHR continues to monitor the developments in the prisons with respect to COVID-19 and is deeply concerned about the recent report from the Prisons Service that to date over 80 prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19 in Maximum Security Prison (MSP).'

'CCHR recognizes the government’s efforts to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 however they still fall short in terms of standard practices and recommendations made by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international bodies in minimizing the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak in the prison system.'

'Sanitization and mask-wearing alone will not effectively contain the spread in an overcrowded space. It is impossible to social distance in overcrowded prisons and places not just the prison population at risk but also the wider community because prisons do not operate in isolation.'

The CCHR said the state has a duty of care to prisoners:

'The state assumes the duty of care for persons deprived of their liberties and it is important to note that a prisoner’s constitutional right to health and right to life is in no way diminished during the course of their incarceration. Prisoners are particularly vulnerable given their fragile health due to the spread of disease in the prison system, poor nutrition and limited access to healthcare.

'The overcrowding in the prisons and the inhumane conditions are ideal conditions for a widespread outbreak of COVID-19. Remand remains a space that is particularly worrying given reports of up to eight persons being held in one cell.'

The group said the Prison Association has requested a new remand facility, adding that this has been an urgent issue for decades. 

'The risks COVID-19 poses to remandees emphasized the need for a new remand facility. This has been an urgent issue for decades.'

'We also remain deeply concerned that seven months after the announcement by the Attorney General to release non-violent prisoners that have committed minor offences, as efforts to reduce the prison population so as to minimize the risk of COVID-19, that these persons are yet to be released. This is unacceptable.'

'CCHR strongly urges the government to take the necessary steps to protect the health of the prison population and the wider community and follow through with their proposed measures to minimize the threat of COVID-19 in the prisons.'

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