Webinar series charts prison responses to COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The APT and UNDP recently hosted a series of webinars to discuss the key trends in prison and justice systems across Latin America and the Caribbean during COVID-19, identified through our joint Digital Mapping project

The four webinars, held between May and August, discussed issues in relation to:

  • Trend 1: The pandemic has promoted alternative measures to deprivation of liberty
  • Trend 2: Prison systems have transformed to respond to specific requirements during COVID-19
  • Trend 3: Detention monitoring bodies have shown adaptation and resilience
  • Trend 4: Data and information systems are essential for designing comprehensive evidence-based public policies and promoting informed decision-making.

A common theme raised during each webinar was the need to reduce the high levels of pre-trial detention and imprisonment across the region.

“Our webinar participants described how this can be achieved by using alternative measures to deprivation of liberty and by designing efficient and targeted release schemes, with a focus on those most vulnerable to COVID-19,” said Ms Sara Vera López, APT Adviser for Latin America and Oversight.

“Another priority is to involve the families and support persons of those deprived of liberty when prison policies are being developed and to include them in other decision-making processes,” she said.

“Participants also highlighted the vital work of National Preventive Mechanisms, who adapted how they work in order to ensure there was ongoing, independent oversight of places of detention from the beginning of the pandemic.”

The webinar series included a valuable exchange of insights and examples from representatives of countries across the region, including:

  • Efforts by National Council of Justice to address the health crisis in the prison system of Brazil
  • An overview of the Pioneers programme in El Salvador that seeks to prevent violence among the youth population
  • Challenges and successes of the prison system in Belize in responding to COVID-19
  • Initiatives taken by Uruguay’s Parliamentary Commissioner for the Penitentiary System from the start of the pandemic. 

The APT and UNDP would like to thank all participants who took part in the webinar series, including enforcement judges, area directors from Ministries of Justice, representatives of civil society organisations, national preventive mechanisms and academia, as well as representatives from the Inter-American Development Bank and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The APT published a series of reports which offer unique analysis on the findings from our Digital Mapping project.

Staff members