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NEWS

Short Update: European Parliament briefing paper on measures taken to reduce the spread of the virus in Member States’ prisons

FairTrialsAdmin - June 22, 2020 - COVID-19 Updates, Prison conditions, Prisoner releases, Remote Justice, Access to a lawyer, Delayed or accelerated proceedings

The European Parliament has published a briefing paper on measures governments have taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Member States’ prisons, drawing on information collected by Fair Trials’ COVID-19 Justice project, among other sources. 

The European Parliament states that Europe’s prisons are often overcrowded and lacking resources and adequate health services, therefore they were at high risk regarding the spread of the virus. Most EU countries introduced restrictions affecting prisoners’ rights, such as the right to family life. Measures such as depriving prisoners of contact with families and social activity or locking them in their cells for almost 24 hours a day, contributed to a feeling of distress and insecurity among prisoners and in some countries led to violent reactions. 

The briefing paper also notes that access to lawyers was maintained, either by phone or in person, with specific arrangements such as glass partitions or masks. More than half of the Member States sought to reduce prison populations, especially in cases of overcrowding. Many countries postponed non-urgent hearings or facilitated remote (video-conference) hearings, recommending that lawyers contact detainees by phone or other remote means.  

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