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A legal-realist assessment of human rights, right to health and standards of healthcare in the Malawian prison system during COVID-19 state disaster measures.

Van Hout, MC, Mhango, V, Kaima, R, Bigland, C and Mariniello, T (2022) A legal-realist assessment of human rights, right to health and standards of healthcare in the Malawian prison system during COVID-19 state disaster measures. International Journal of Prisoner Health. ISSN 1744-9200

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Purpose: The first case of COVID-19 in the Malawi prison system was reported in July 2020. Human rights organisations raised concerns about the possibility of significant COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths in the prison system, due to the poor infrastructure, lack of health care and adequate COVID-19 mitigation measures, existing co-morbidities (tuberculosis, HIV, hepatitis C), malnutrition and poor health of many prisoners.
Design/methodology/approach: We conducted a legal-realist assessment of the Malawian prison system response to COVID-19 during state disaster measures, with a specific focus on the right to health and standards of health care as mandated in international, African and domestic law.
Findings: The Malawi prison system was relatively successful in preventing serious COVID-19 outbreaks in its prisons, despite the lack of resources and the ad hoc reactive approach adopted. Whilst the Malawi national COVID plan was aligned to international and regional protocols, the combination of infrastructural deficits (clinical staff, medical provisions) and poor conditions of detention (congestion, lack of ventilation, hygiene and sanitation) were conducive to poor health and the spread of communicable disease. The state of disaster declared by the Malawi government and visitation restrictions at prisons worsened prison conditions for those working and living there.
Originality: In sub-Saharan Africa, there is limited capacity of prisons to adequately respond to COVID-19. This is the first legal-realist assessment of the Malawian prison system approach to tackling COVID-19, and it contributes to a growing evidence of human rights-based investigations into COVID19 responses in African prisons (Ethiopia, South Africa, Zimbabwe).

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This author accepted manuscript is deposited under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC) licence. This means that anyone may distribute, adapt, and build upon the work for non-commercial purposes, subject to full attribution. If you wish to use this manuscript for commercial purposes, please contact permissions@emerald.com
Uncontrolled Keywords: 1117 Public Health and Health Services, 1602 Criminology, 1605 Policy and Administration
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology > HV8301 Penology. Prisons. Corrections
Divisions: Public Health Institute
Publisher: Emerald
Date Deposited: 22 Feb 2022 09:44
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2022 10:30
DOI or ID number: 10.1108/IJPH-10-2021-0108
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/16372
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