ICRC: The 1st World Conference on Health in Detention

ICRC: The 1st World Conference on Health in Detention

Statement of Purpose

Health in detention is public health. Health authorities, senior management, healthcare and safety workers, academics and researchers from a range of relevant disciplines involved in health in detention will enhance their awareness, knowledge and skills to improve the health outcomes of persons deprived of liberty.

By strengthening health systems in detention through effective and collaborative management and interministerial coordination, and promoting the application of fundamental rights and standards, professionals can:

  • Ensure equality and promote equivalence of care in places of detention, in accordance with ethical and international standards
  • Improve public health for all members of society by integrating detention health systems into national health systems


Most people in detention come from marginalized segments of society, shouldering a higher than average burden of ill-health with less access to healthcare services. Once detained, an individual's health may worsen due to poor living conditions, such as deficient sanitation, unbalanced diets and other adverse determinants of health.

Overcrowding increases the likelihood of transmission of infectious diseases—most notably TB, HIV and hepatitis. The increase of general life expectancy in some countries, as well as the trend towards increasing the length of sentences and the introduction of harsh sentences have influenced the growth of the older prison population in many countries worldwide, increasing the burden of non-communicable diseases in detention health systems.

The stress from living in the detention environment also increases the likelihood of risky behaviours—such as drug use or self-harm—compounding the adverse effects detention has on mental and physical health. Operating with fewer resources than community health services, places of detention often struggle to meet the high demands for health care.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the health vulnerabilities of people living and working in detention, underscoring the major challenges to implementing effective infection prevention and control measures (IPC) throughout a detention facility. Though one often thinks of detention facilities as isolated spaces, they are never totally walled off from society.

There is a constant movement of staff, visitors, transfers, medical personnel, releases and new admissions. This flow of regular exchanges between places of detention and society emphasizes the importance of investing in health in detention to also protect surrounding communities. Health in detention is a vital component to public health.

To manage COVID-19 effectively, we must ensure health care for all — including people living and working in detention. COVID-19 has exposed the gaps that exist in healthcare in detention provision globally and this conference aims to delve into the evidence and look at how to implement solutions to improve health in detention across many different contexts. 

Learning from each other's experiences at the conference will help us work together to strengthen health systems in detention, to better integrate health in detention into public health and to facilitate more cross-sectoral work. Through this meeting we hope to embrace these challenges and explore the emerging need for sustainable digital transformation and to place people at the center of policy measures to achieve health for All, making the invisible visible and leaving no one behind.


  1. From the experiences gained during the COVID-19 pandemic, to identify solutions to build towards better policies and practices in health in detention.
  2. To provide opportunities for participants to share experiences, challenges, lessons learnt and emerging evidence and data.
  3. To promote a whole-of-government approach to health in detention, in which public ministries work in collaboration across sectors and agencies, formally and informally, integrating their efforts to strengthen health systems including in detention.
  4. To promote awareness and understanding of current international standards and provide guidance towards their implementation.
  5. To explore how digital transformation may be used to improve health in detention ethically and securely.


  • From policy to practice: people at the centre to improve Health For All
  • Towards stronger health systems in detention
  • Making the invisible visible
  • Embracing the digital transformation


  • COVID-19 lessons learnt
  • International norms/standards
  • Governance and leadership 
  • Human resources 
  • Evidence and data 
  • Nutrition and other determinants of health 
  • Infectious diseases 
  • Non-communicable diseases 
  • Mental health 
  • Substance use 
  • Disabilities 
  • Experiences of people in detention 
  • Gender vulnerabilities 
  • Children and adolescents 
  • Tele-health and digital tools
Call for Papers Deadline: 30 April 2022
Registration Deadline: Extended to 30 April 2022
Registration Fee: 450 CHF
More Information & Registration: https://health-in-detention.icrc.org/


International Corrections and Prisons Association 
Worldwide Prison Health Research & Engagement Network
University of Melbourne, Justice Health Unit