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UN Expert Issues Calls To Pandemic-Proof Prisons


A UN independent expert on Friday called on States to review prison management practices and policies to ensure compliance with human rights standards, as countries grapple with the need to adapt to environmental challenges and the looming threat of future pandemics.

“Far too many people are imprisoned, for too long, in severely overcrowded facilities. The link between poverty and incarceration is clear – people from disadvantaged or marginalised communities are far more likely to be imprisoned than other socio-economic groups,” said Alice Jill Edwards, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.

In a wide-reaching report to the Human Rights Council, Ms. Edwards examined persistent challenges in prison management, as well as emerging issues that demand strategic planning such as climate change and future health pandemics.

Under pressure

“Significant challenges facing prisons are found in some form in almost every country,” the expert said. “Prisons are under pressure from too many demands, insufficient resources and inadequate staffing, and as a result conditions are often unsafe and inhumane.”

The UN Human Rights Council-appointed expert found that many prisoners serve long sentences in deplorable conditions, with limited access to education or vocational skills.

“The widespread neglect of prisons and prisoners in countries around the world has a significant social impact, exacerbating poverty and the likelihood of recidivism, and ultimately failing to keep the public safe,” she said.

Special Rapporteurs and other independent rights experts are not UN staff, do not receive a salary for their work and are independent of any government or organisation.


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