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ID: HR23-348
Presenting author: Marcela Jofré

How has COVID impacted the access to health and harm reduction services in prisons around the world and lessons for a human rights-oriented approach

Cinzia Brentari, Ruod Ariete, Giada Girelli, Marcela Jofré, Ajeng Larasati, Gen Sander
Despite the existing domestic and international human rights framework that promote, protect and guarantee the right of people deprived of liberty, including access to health, there is an enormous gap between those human rights standards and their effective implementation in places of detention, particularly regarding the access to health and harm reduction services for people who use drugs and other marginalised groups. This has been further challenged by approaches to the management of the COVID-19 pandemic in prisons around the world.

The presentation will explore the fulfilment of the right to health of people who use drugs in prison by bringing together relevant research and advocacy work by Harm Reduction International (HRI). The presentation will start with outlining human rights standards in prison settings regarding the right to health, followed by findings related to HRI research and advocacy work around the management of COVID-19 pandemic in places of detention and the fulfilment of prisoner’s rights. In specific: a global mapping of the impact of the first wave of COVID-19 in prison, the access to vaccination programmes in prisons, more recent research on longer term changes (or lack thereof) which the prison systems around the world introduced as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemics and related restriction measures.

Are we doing better or worse?

Through the presentation, we aim to re-emphasize the needs for an evidence and rights-based harm reduction services in prison, especially in the face of public health emergency. The provision of harm reduction services in prison is a human rights obligation, as well as proven to be an effective and safe public health measure.