Worldwide, approximately 11 million people are currently being held in prison, a sizeable population which has been growing steadily since the turn of the 21st century. The prison population is more likely to suffer from physical and mental ailments both during and prior to their imprisonment, underpinned by poverty, social exclusion and chaotic lifestyles. Recognition of people in prison is noticeably absent from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which seek to predicate positive health outcomes for all populations, particularly the ‘left behind’.
Underpinned by the ethos of ‘leaving no one behind’, this paper represents the first interdisciplinary analysis as to how improving the health of people in prison can contribute to the fulfilment of the SDGs. Furthermore, our normative conceptual framework illustrates that meeting 15 of the 17 SDGs will also help to meet existing international prison health standards. Acknowledging that the scope of prison health transcends incarceration, brokering the involvement of cross-sector stakeholders and co-producing solutions with both the prison workforce and people in prison are all critical factors in ensuring a systemic buy-in to the SDGs.
Future research is proposed to develop relevant indicators and to encourage the sharing of best practices which can promote the real-world impact on policy and practice. In order to reach the ‘furthest behind first’, it is crucial that prison health is at the forefront of the SDGs.