Prisons in Southeast Asia: Neglected COVID-19 Hotspots?

As countries continue to navigate new waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, prisons remain hotbeds for virus transmission. The pandemic has exposed the impact of overcrowding and underresourcing of prisons in Southeast Asia in the gravest of terms – through the loss of life.

The true extent of the epidemic inside the walls of prisons and jails in Southeast Asia is largely unknown because of undertesting and underreporting. As the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to spread in the region, it is likely that there will be an increasing number of clusters and outbreaks in carceral settings with implications to the larger community and to the healthcare system. With prisoners not prioritized in national vaccination plans, the ability to block transmission is hampered. No one is safe until everyone is safe, including those who are currently incarcerated.

On June 14th, Internews hosted a webinar dedicated to the issue of COVID-19 in prisons across Southeast Asia. The objective of this session is to help journalists navigate and report on the issue of COVID in prisons because any control strategy for COVID-19 in the community that does not encompass the prison context will not be sustainable. The panelist was moderated by Sonny Krishnan, Journalist and Pandemic Media Mentor with Internews. Guest speakers i included: Gloria Lai — Asia Regional Director International Drug Policy Consortium, Bangkok; Karen Peters — Regional Drug and Health Program Officer United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Bangkok; Pravit Rojanaphruk, Senior journalist Khao Sod (English), Bangkok, Thailand; and Gerald Flynn — journalist, editor Thmey Thmey (English), Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

If you missed this webinar, you can access the recording below.