Covid-19 in custody: responding to pandemics in prisons in england and wales

Published 21/05/2020
Type Article
Author(s) Dr Christopher Kay
Corresponding Authors


COVID-19 was first detected in the prison estate in England and Wales in March 2020 and spread rapidly amongst prisoners and staff. Several policy initiatives were introduced in an attempt to improve the ability to carry out social distancing within the prison estate, reduce the transmission of the disease within prisons and manage cases as they arose. Policies which involved the temporary release of prisoners, increasing accommodation levels within the estate and the cohorting of prisoners presenting with symptoms were all introduced in an attempt to mitigate the impact of the disease. These policies were neither effective nor implemented in a timely manner, and the delay risked increasing the spread of the disease throughout the prison estate. Drawing upon evidence from both public health and social policy research, the following commentary discusses the impact of COVID-19 within the prison estate, and the effects of a policy approach that lacked timeliness and action, on the effective management of pandemics in prison.