Pretrial Detention and Health: Unintended Consequences, Deadly Results

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Pretrial holding facilities in countries with developing and transitional economies often force detainees to live in filthy, over-crowded conditions, where they lack adequate health services. In the worst cases, detainees die; some centers are so bad that innocent people plead guilty just to be transferred to prisons where the conditions might be better.

For many pretrial detainees, being locked away in detention centers where tuberculosis, hepatitis C, and HIV are easily contracted can be a death sentence.

This paper, aimed at health professionals, presents a review of literature on health conditions and health services in pretrial detention in developing and transitional countries. It takes as its point of departure that the negative health impacts of excessive pretrial detention are an important reason to pursue pretrial justice reform.

Its recommendations include calling on health professionals to support monitoring and research efforts on the issues, as well supporting prison health officials and public engagement.