Coronavirus and children in detention

Originally published by Child Rights International Network (CRIN) on 26/03/2020


There are 160,000 – 250,000 children detained in prisons and pre-trial detentions centers, globally. Many of these children are in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions, rendering any attempt to slow the spread of infection nearly impossible. The inevitable spread of the virus will effect staff working in these facilities, leaving them understaffed and unable to maintain education and healthcare services. In addition, the ability of the children to leave their cells to exercise and socialize will be extremely limited. Solitary confinement for children is recognized as a form of cruel and unusual punishment under international human rights law and is not a means to prevent the spread of infection.Reducing the number of children in detention is the only viable solution for managing the detention facilities in a safe manner. Releases should be organized before an outbreak takes place, first focusing on younger, non-violent offenders who can be safely released and managed in the community. Pre-trial detention should be reduced and community sentences should be emphasized to reduce the number of children entering detention. With these reductions, staff will be better equipped and services will be accessible for those children that do remain in detention.

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