People in prison are entirely dependent on authorities to ensure their health and safety, including during natural disasters and adverse weather events such as earthquakes, tropical storms, floods and heatwaves.
Often, they may be unable to evacuate to a safer area, or access basic supplies such as food and water due to inadequate preparedness and planning. Risk and vulnerability are heightened when prisons are badly constructed, overcrowded, have poor sanitation, or have a high proportion of ill, older, disabled or illiterate persons.
The ecological effects of climate change are likely to increase in frequency and scale. This calls for heightened engagement in developing human rights-based and emergency preparedness plans and working with countries in need of support in the Global South and the Global North.
It is vital that penitentiary services prepare scenario-based responses and risk assessments with officers, these should include evacuation plans which seek to protect the rights of all people in prisons. Developing human rights-based approaches to criminal justice systems in cases of natural disasters is a relatively new area of penal reform. Little has been published on the theme, and existing analysis tends to focus the immediate impact and aftermath of a natural disaster, overlooking planning and preparing people in prison, the prison environment and staff in managing effective responses when natural disaster hits.
As part of our 2020-2023 strategy we will develop knowledge on the precarity of people in detention when faced with natural disasters. We will raise awareness of penitentiary systems to take steps to protect the human rights of individuals in detention when natural disasters occurs. We hope to provide evidence-based best practice guidance and conduct further research to develop our work in protecting the human rights of people in prison faced with natural disasters.
People with disabilities
Working conditions of staff