A number of countries that have made commitments to decongest prisons have explicitly excluded people detained for drug offences, including two of the case study countries in this brief (Colombia and Indonesia).
Many countries that have implemented decongestion measures have simultaneously failed to prevent or reduce the continued and disproportionate arrest and imprisonment of people for minor drug offences, thus undermining attempts to reduce prison overcrowding.
Due to overcrowding and the lack of adequate drug treatment and harm reduction services, hygiene products and sanitation measures, people in prison, particularly people who use drugs, are at much higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and suffering serious adverse health consequences from the virus than individuals in the general public.
There is already a lack of adequate drug dependence treatment and harm reduction measures inside prisons.6 Where such services do exist, incarcerated people have experienced serious restrictions to accessing them during the COVID-19 pandemic
Community integration programmes have failed to support people released from detention to return to their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.