A rapid global review of guidance to prevent and control COVID-19 in custodial settings

Lindsay Pearce, Stuart Kinner, Alaina Vaisey, Claire Keen, Lucas Calais-Ferreira, James Foulds, Ruth Gray, Sunita Sturup-Toft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Objective: With over 11 million people incarcerated globally, the prevention and control of COVID-19 in custodial settings is a critical component of the public health response. We sought to identify, collate, and summarise guidance for the prevention and control of COVID-19 in custodial settings in the first six months of 2020. Methods: We conducted a systematic search of peer-reviewed and grey literature, and manually searched relevant websites to identify publications up to 30 June 2020 outlining recommendations to prevent and/or control COVID-19 in custodial settings. We inductively developed a coding framework and assessed recommendations using conventional content analysis. Results: We found 201 eligible publications containing 372 unique recommendations across 19 domains that represented key components of a comprehensive COVID-19 response in custodial settings to protect the health of people in prison and the general public. These included: preparedness; physical environments; case identification, screening, and management; communication; external access and visitation; psychological and emotional support; recreation, legal, and health service adaptation; decarceration; release and community reintegration; workforce logistics; surveillance and information sharing; independent monitoring; compensatory measures; lifting control measures; evaluation; and key populations/settings. We identified twelve guiding principles, few conflicting recommendations, and several areas where more guidance was needed. Conclusions: The breadth of recommendations identified in this review reflects the complexity of COVID-19 response in custodial settings. Despite the availability of comprehensive guidance overall, no one guidance document covered all 19 domains. Important gaps remain in the implementation of recommended prevention and control measures globally and in the availability of evidence assessing their effectiveness on reducing COVID-19 disease, their mental and physical health impacts on inmates and staff, and implementation. Addressing these knowledge gaps are critical to ensure a more effective and humane response to infectious diseases in custodial settings in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136
Number of pages1
JournalPopulation Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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© (2023) European Publishing


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