On 3 and 4 November, the Cooperation in Police and Deprivation of Liberty Unit held a multilateral meeting in Strasbourg to present and discuss the findings of a research conducted in 2021 in six Council of Europe member states – Albania, Armenia, Georgia, Ireland, the Netherlands and Portugal – in cooperation with Penal Reform International. The aim of the research was to understand the effect the Covid-19 pandemic has had on prisons and its influence on their future organisational and functional set-up, sustainable treatment of inmates, multi-agency cooperation and technical assistance.
The participants of the meeting acknowledged that the study is a useful starting point for discussing and guiding policy planning for possible emergency situations in the future. The research looks at the efforts undertaken by the six selected member states to prevent and control Covid-19 within their prison systems; its findings are based on questionnaire responses provided by authorities, stakeholder interviews and information available in the public domain, including other Covid-19 studies, looking especially for examples of good practice and lessons learned. It further includes recommendations of what could be done at different levels for prisons to function better in the event of a pandemic in the future, and for international partners to support prison administrations in these circumstances.
The meeting brought together senior officials and professionals from national prison administrations and their medical services who shared with each other many valuable insights on challenges encountered and solutions implemented in their jurisdictions. They discussed the ways in which the lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic can be incorporated into national prison reform plans and priorities, with a view to strengthening the implementation of Council of Europe standards.