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Covid-19 presents opportunity to review prison system – GP

The current pandemic presents an unprecedented opportunity for authorities worldwide to review the purpose of incarceration and improve prison healthcare, according to a GP specialising in addiction.

Worldwide, there are an estimated 11 million prisoners incarcerated at any one time and prisons can be challenging environments for meeting their healthcare needs, according to Dr Des Crowley, GP Addiction Specialist and Assistant Director of the Managing Addiction in Primary Care Programme, ICGP.

The pandemic has brought rapid changes to workplaces and social lives and there are real opportunities for positive change in prisons as well, according to Dr Crowley.

Dr Crowley said: “This review is a commentary on how prisons/prisoners may be vulnerable during Covid-19 but also how prisons can provide an opportunity to manage infectious epidemics. It also provides public health and policy opportunities to revisit the role and purpose of incarceration and the human rights issues linked to imprisonment.

“There are opportunities for improved prison healthcare. Prisoners can be screened for infections, and their unmet health needs can be addressed, while mental health and substance use disorders can also be recognised and treated.

“However while telemedicine and video consultations have become the new normal in general practice, this innovation has not been introduced in prisons.”

In Ireland, there has been no Covid-19 infections among prisoners and a small number of staff have been infected.

Dr Crowley’s review ‘Prison and opportunities for management of Covid-19’ is published today in BJGP Open.

The link to the review is here:

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