Prisons and health: Partnership for Health in the Criminal Justice System

The Partnership for Health in the Criminal Justice System website provides prison health-related resources supplied by WHO/Europe and partner organizations. It covers prison health information in the fields of: human rights and medical ethics, communicable diseases, noncommunicable diseases, risk factors and prison health management.

As members of the Partnership for Health in the Criminal Justice System, WHO/Europe and its partners share the following aims:

  • to encourage cooperation and establish integrated work between public health systems, international nongovernmental organizations, and prison health systems to promote public health and reduce health inequalities;
  • to encourage prisons to operate within the widely recognized international codes of human rights and medical ethics in providing services for prisoners;
  • to help reduce reoffending by encouraging prison health services to contribute fully to each prisoner's rehabilitation, especially but not exclusively in relation to drug addiction and mental health problems;
  • to reduce prisoners' exposure to communicable diseases, thereby preventing prisons from becoming focal points of infection; 
  • to encourage all prison health services, including health promotion services, to reach standards equivalent to those in the wider community;
  • to promote a whole-of-government approach for the management and coordination of all relevant agencies and resources contributing to the health and well-being of prisoners; and
  • to encourage health ministries to provide and be accountable for health care services in prisons and advocate healthy prison conditions.

Enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health is a fundamental human right. Prisoners should therefore have the same standard of medical care as people living in the community. These principles form the basis for WHO/Europe and its partners' commitment to improve health in prisons. The healthy prison concept reinforces the idea that the health and well-being of prisoners is not the sole responsibility of those providing health care in a prison, but is also dependent upon the regime and ethos of each establishment.

The European Region is the only WHO region with a prison health programme. The Partnership for Health in the Criminal Justice System is a first-of-its-kind platform for information dissemination, networking and good practice sharing in the area of prison health. With contributions from partners representing the main areas of the field, the platform will be an important resource for policy-makers, researchers and members of the public interested in prison health. For further information about each partner organization, please see the 'Partners' section of this platform.