Advocating for prisoner release against the backdrop of COVID-19

More people than ever before are detained in prisons across the globe. As estimated by Penal Reform International, over 11 million people were detained in prisons in 2019. Prisoners are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than the general population, because of the confined settings in which they reside.

Our global pro bono practice has worked on two projects focused on advocating for prisoner release, both in light of COVID-19 and as a means to prevent prison overcrowding long-term.

In 2020, our lawyers conducted research in 54 jurisdictions to analyse the diverse approaches taken by governments to respond to the pandemic and reduce the risk of transmission in prisons through the release of prisoners (both adults and children) and by limiting new prison admissions.

The schemes have shown that governments can act quickly and effectively to address the long-term, structural problem of overcrowded prisons. The report found that programs where prisoners are permanently released can be a highly effective short-term strategy to reduce prison populations, provided they are implemented in a structured, transparent and ordered manner.

Read the full report here.