The world is facing an unprecedented public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic comes at a time when the global prison population is record high with 11 million prisoners worldwide and with over 124 states reporting prison overcrowding. Globally, the pandemic has exposed and accelerated the detrimental consequences of chronic overcrowding in places of detention.
The pandemic warrants resolute action by states to reduce the prison population as an imperative for preventing an outbreak within the prison and, in turn, within society. Without compromising public safety, states must limit new admissions to prison and accelerate the release of certain categories of prisoners. To this end, states should consider increased use of non-custodial alternatives to detention and imprisonment.
In order to help guide states in their response to the pandemic in custodial settings and to prison overcrowding, DIGNITY has developed a Guidance Document on Reducing Overcrowding in Pre-Trial Detention and Prison in the Context of COVID-19 – Increasing the Use of Non-Custodial Measures.
The Guidance Document outlines why non-custodial alternatives to detention and imprisonment are necessary, what non-custodial measures are available, and when in the criminal justice process such measures should be considered. The document also contains examples of promising measures taken by states in the COVID-19 context.