STATEMENT ON REGIONAL PRISON CONDITIONS AND TREATMENT DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

The on-going COVID-19 pandemic has caused a disruption in the lives of citizens throughout the region and has exposed the vulnerabilities of thousands. Prisons throughout the region continue to suffer from over-crowding and inadequate sanitation which, given the current situation, leaves prisoners at an increased risk of being exposed to and contracting COVID-19. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) identifies people in prisons as more vulnerable to COVID-19 than the general population because of the confined conditions in which they live that facilitate transmission of diseases. It is understood that a sudden outbreak of COVID-19 in prisons would put overwhelming pressure on the public health care system in Caribbean countries.

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has been adopted and ratified by regional governments and this creates a duty to make available proper healthcare to prisoners and ensure that living conditions are of a respectable standard. This duty is even more important in an on-going global health crisis.

Prisons concentrate individuals who are susceptible to infection of COVID-19 and those with a higher risk of complications should infection occur.   Appreciating the challenges regional governments are experiencing, the current situation makes it even more important that adequate medical treatment and testing, personal protective equipment and additional support is provided to those who are living and working within prisons with special attention to those showing symptoms consistent with COVID-19. 

The benchmark for the level and quality of healthcare available to prisoners should be that of the healthcare available to wider society and they should have prompt access to the urgent care that they need. “The provision of health care for prisoners is a state responsibility. Prisoners should enjoy the same standards of health care that are available in the community and should have access to necessary health-care services free of charge without discrimination on the grounds of their legal status.” [1]

In March 2021, over 30 prisoners tested positive for COVID-19 in Antigua and Barbuda putting both prisoners, workers and the general population at greater risk.[2] In December 2020 Barbados saw an outbreak of COVID-19 in prisons where at its peak 366 had tested positive, comprising 102 members of staff and 264 prisoners.[3]

Greater Caribbean for Life (GCL) urges regional governments to make the health and wellbeing of prisoners in this pandemic a priority in order to ensure proper handling of the pandemic and to avoid overwhelming the health-care sector.

About GCL

Who we are, What we do, and Why we do it

GCL was established in Oct 2013 following a Conference in Trinidad and Tobago, which was attended by abolitionists from 12 Greater Caribbean Countries as well as abolitionists further afield.  

The Organisation was incorporated under the laws of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico on January 31, 2014. GCL is the only organisation in the Greater Caribbean region that is devoted to working towards the permanent abolition of the death penalty in the Greater Caribbean and to support Caribbean abolitionist activists and organisations in this region.  

GCL strives to ensure that our region becomes part of the global trend, to join the 143 countries, about two thirds of the countries in the world, that have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. 

While our members condemn the rise of violent crime in our region and expresses solidarity with victims, we reject the notion that capital punishment will act as a deterrent or foster respect for life in our communities.  

GCL is committed to promoting peace, respect for life, and good neighbourliness as appropriate methods of reducing crime in the Greater Caribbean region. We believe that this strategy provides a more durable and effective solution than the taking of life. Let’s stop crime, not lives. 


[1]  The UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules) Rule 24.1.

[2] Prisons officers in Antigua protest over worsening conditions due to COVID – https://dominicanewsonline.com/news/covid-19/prison-officers-in-antigua-and-barbuda-protest-over-concerns-made-worse-by-covid-19with-video/

[3] Barbados Authorities say prison is now Covid free https://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/caribbean/20210222/authorities-barbados-say-prison-now-covid-19-free

Published by gcforlife

Committed to fighting against the Death Penalty and State executions

%d bloggers like this: