The vast majority of prisoners will return to society within a few years, and this is why health care is needed and should also be given to them.
This was the purpose of humanitarian network International Committee of the Red Cross when it organized the 3rd Asian and Pacific Conference on Prison Health in Manila.
Dubbed “Health Despite Bars”, the three-day (Nov. 13 to 15) conference provides a platform to health and detention authorities, academics and public health experts, to share research and best practices for the welfare of inmates getting sick while in detention.
The conference held at the New World Hotel in Makati City also aims to:
• promote a whole-of-government approach to prison health;
• increase awareness of international standards;
• encourage participants to be active members of the worldwide prison health research and engagement network.
“Prisoners deserve the same standards of health care as are available to the community, as well as access to health services without discrimination. But often, the inmates’ health needs cannot be fully met due to challenges in the coordination among authorities concerned, lack of coherence in policies and procedures, inadequate health staff and facilities, among other reasons,” said Dr. Ziad Tohme, who works with ICRC as a regional specialist looking into the health-care needs in detention facilities in Asia and the Pacific.
The ICRC stated that poor living conditions in many prisons across the world adversely impacted the health of inmates, worsening their pre-existing ailments or leading to new health concerns in prisons.
“Tuberculosis and other communicable diseases are significantly prevalent in prisons, and may spread to the community through staff, visitors and released prisoners who received inadequate treatment. Curative care must be supported by improving food and nutrition, water, sanitation and having activities for better health. It’s also critical to recognize that prison managers and other staff are just as responsible for prisoners’ health,” Tohme said.
Around 150 participants involved in prison health from 21 countries discuss topics such as health needs of women and other vulnerable groups, mental health and drug addiction, international standards for prison health.
As a result of the conference, it is hoped that the participants will help improve the health outcomes of detainees through effective management and coordination, promote respect for fundamental rights protecting all detainees, and implement related standards and principles (including “equivalence of care”), contributing to a healthier society.
“We’re all involved in providing care to people in custody. Coming to a conference allows us to find out what’s working in some places, what’s not working so well… share our experiences. The reason why we’re all here is to improve care for people who are in detention. We are all passionate about that and so if we can learn from each other that can improve the care of people in custody, that’s a great thing,” said participant Fiona Montroy, clinical nurse consultant of Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network in New South Wales, Australia.