Lindsay Pearce leads publication of a rapid global review of guidance for COVID-19 in custodial settings

Custodial settings are high-risk environments for the rapid transmission of COVID-19. With over 11 million people incarcerated globally, prevention and control of COVID-19 in these settings is a critical component of the public health response.

In the first 6 months of 2020, there was a rapid influx in published guidance to assist governments and custodial authorities quickly mount responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Justice Health Unit researchers, led by Lindsay Pearce, conducted a rapid systematic review of peer-reviewed and grey literature publications outlining recommendations to prevent and/or control COVID-19 in custodial settings. They partnered with colleagues from the University of Otago (New Zealand), South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (Northern Ireland), and Public Health England (UK).

201 eligible publications containing 374 unique recommendations were identified. Recommendations were categorised into 19 key domains each representing a distinct and important area to consider for comprehensive response. The breadth of recommendations and domains identified reflect the complexity of responding to COVID-19 in custodial settings. Critically, responses must carefully balance the need for restrictive infection prevention and control measures with their potentially harmful impacts on health and human rights, particularly for the high proportion of people in custody with mental illness.

Despite the availability of comprehensive guidance early in the pandemic, the implementation of recommended prevention and control measures has largely been inadequate globally. Priority areas identified from this review for future research and evaluation include: assessment of the impact of recommended measures (and combinations of measures) on COVID-19 disease and mortality in custodial settings, their broader physical and mental health impacts on people in custody and staff, and how they were implemented across diverse settings.

The review, published in October 2021, is available here.

Great work Lindsay and team!