COVID-19 AND PRISONERS

INTRODUCTION: ‘Never make predictions especially about future’ are the words said by Casey Stengel which are now proved to be right as life has become miserable in this 2020 with the outbreak of coronavirus which has made invariable changes to the society as with the unprecedented threat of Covid-19 led to an unimaginable suffering to the entire world. COVID-19: The novel coronavirus (covid-19) has initially commenced as a small disease but gradually emerged from an epidemic to a pandemic. It was first detected in one of the cities of China which has now made the whole world suffer. The covid-19 outbreak is accelerating day by day infecting the people in almost 185 countries It has become a dictator ruling the world without any power granted to it. It is deciding the present and future of the nations by killing i.e. causing the deaths to the people of almost all the countries and also the death rates are accelerating gradually from day to day. RULE OF LAW: Rule of law is the antithesis of arbitrariness...Rule of law is now the accepted norm of all civilised societies...Everywhere it is identified with the liberty of the individual. It seeks to maintain a balance between the opposing notions of individual liberty and public order. The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most significant public health challenges for a generation. The word rule of law is defined as a kind of law which is reasonable just and non-discriminatory. So every person should be treated equally in other words equality before law and equal protection of law as enshrined under Articles 14 & 15 of the Indian Constitution which speaks of equality and non-discrimination. So improving the safety in prisons and the release of thousands of low risks prisoners should also be considered. RISK OF COVID-19: People in prison live in settings in close proximity and thus may act as a source of infection, amplification and spread of infectious diseases within and beyond prisons. As the pandemic spreads, the response to COVID-19 in prisons and other places of detention becomes more challenging and requires a whole-of-society approach.  Prison health is part of public health so that nobody is left behind. PRISONERS & COVID-19: People deprived of their liberty, such as people in prisons and other places of detention, are more vulnerable to the corona virus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. The pandemic has amplified the hazards of cramped conditions in prisons around the world, and raised objections to cruelly exposing large, concentrated groups of people to the virus. STATISTICS: The statistics show there are over 10 million people in prisons worldwide. So, the similar benefits which are provided to those in non-prisons should be provided to those in prisons.   There are some instances where the prisoners are affected with the covid-19. The following are those instances: ● A total of 12 inmates have now died in prison riots across Italy triggered by emergency restrictions imposed amid the COVID-19 corona virus outbreak. ● An 84-year-old sex offender was confirmed as the first British inmate to die after contracting corona virus, with another 19 prisoners infected across 10 prisons. ● And there were 2000 possible cases and 15 reported deaths in UK prisons. The new corona virus has infected 234 people in two prisons outside the province at the centre of the epidemic ● The USA which reported 30 deaths and 1300 cases whilst also recording the death of a prisoner giving birth NELSON MANDELA RULES: Prisoners retain a right to parity of medical care and a right to bodily integrity despite restrictions in their liberty. All prisoners shall be treated with respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings. No prisoner shall be subjected to, and all prisoners shall be protected from, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, for which no circumstances whatsoever may be invoked as a justification. The safety and security of prisoners, staff, service providers and visitors shall be ensured at all times. The present rules shall be applied impartially. There shall be no discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or any other status. A number of these measures have been enacted by the Irish Prison Service. We recommend seven key considerations that may be applicable internationally: 1. Measures should be undertaken to reduce the prison population through alternative criminal justice disposals and facilitating early release of low-risk offenders 2. Prisons should move to non-shared accommodation, that is, facilitate single-cell accommodation There should be systematic and robust screening of new prisoners on reception for a history of travel and symptoms of COVID-19. So the prisoners should also be given the same rights by recognising the principle of equality in this Covid-19 era by making necessary amendments to the respective statutes and issuing necessary guidelines from time to time. DIRECTIONS BY THE UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), WHO (world health organisation), UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS) and OHCHR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) JOINTLY: ● We urge to follow the release mechanisms for people at particular risk of COVID-19, such as older people and people with pre-existing health conditions, as well as other people who could be released without compromising public safety, such as those sentenced for minor, non-violent offences, with specific consideration given to women and children. ● Compulsory detention and rehabilitation centres, where people are suspected of using drugs or engaging in sex work are detained, without due process, in the name of treatment or rehabilitation should be closed. ● All states are required to ensure not only the security, but also the health, safety and human dignity, of people deprived of their liberty and of people working in places of detention at all times. This obligation applies irrespective of any state of emergency. ● There must be no discrimination on the basis of the legal or any other status of people deprived of their liberty. Health care in prisons, including preventive, supportive and curative care, should be of the highest quality possible, ● Compared to the general population the prison population is suffering with some of the disorders and people with these disorders, HIV, hepatitis and TB may be at increased risk of complications from COVID-19. ● Enhancing prevention and control measures in closed settings as well as increasing access to quality health services, including uninterrupted access to the prevention and treatment of HIV, TB, Hepatitis are therefore required. ● People deprived of their liberty exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or who have tested positive should be monitored and treated in line with the most recent WHO guidelines and recommendations. ● Prisons and other places of detention must be part of national COVID-19 plans. In prisons, any intervention should comply with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules). CONCLUSION: Prisoners are also equal to other (humans) ordinary people, though they might have committed an offence or felony, however,  they should be given proper treatment and protection from this novel pandemic. There are many legislations relating to the prisoners one such law is Nelson Mandela’s rules on prisoners which provides the rights to the prisoners. In this pandemic which taught us the value of humanity and nature, no person should be discriminated against in providing safety measures and treatment. Therefore, the above said are some guidelines and the recommendations provided by the international organisation like WHO, OHCHR should be followed by all the countries. Thus, Prisoners should also be given equal importance in terms of treatment in this pandemic.

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