Experts’ meeting on prison health in Europe and the role of international organizations

27 May 2014, Strasbourg, France

To identify opportunities for synergy and collaboration between organizations and identify ways to facilitate health ministries’ further involvement in health care for prisoners, WHO/Europe and the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe jointly organized a meeting of experts on prison health in Europe to address the missions, roles and responsibilities of international organizations.

The meeting took place in Strasbourg, France on the premises of the Council of Europe on 27 May 2014. It brought together high-level representatives of international organizations in the field of prison health:

  1. to outline the current institutional landscape of prison health in Europe; and
  2. to explore how to secure stronger commitment from health authorities to prisoners’ health.

High-level representatives of WHO/Europe, the Pompidou Group and the following exchanged information on their mandates, missions and roles in the field of prison health:

  • other Council of Europe bodies: the Council for Penological Co-operation; the Criminal Law Cooperation Unit, Directorate General of Human Rights and the Rule of Law; the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the European Court of Human Rights;
  • Health without Barriers – the European Federation for Prison Health;
  • the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction;
  • the European Organisation of Prison and Correctional Services;
  • the International Committee of the Red Cross; and
  • the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.


Prisoners’ health is almost always worse than that of the general population. The risks of disease tend to be much higher in prisons than in the community, and prisons can contribute to the burden of disease on the population. This requires especially efficient measures of prevention and health care in prisons. Nevertheless, prisons often do not meet the health needs of their inmates.