Agenda item 6: Update on HIV in Prisons and other Closed Settings
Delivered by Trevor Stratton, NGO North America
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
On behalf of the NGO Delegation, I would like to welcome this comprehensive report on HIV in prisons and other closed settings.
As we’ve known all along, and is confirmed by this report, there is a high representation of key populations in prisons and, in most countries, HIV prevalence within prison populations is higher than in the general population. We also know that there are a lot of people who come in, and haven’t done drugs before who become addicted inside prison and come out with HIV or hepatitis C infection.
This report has shown that due to stigma and discrimination, criminal laws disproportionately affect certain population groups such as racial and ethnic minorities, migrants, and impoverished communities.
In Canada, while the rate of adults being supervised by the correctional system continues to decline, a history of cultural oppression, the damaging legacy of abuse in residential schools, and ongoing racism and colonialism have contributed to high rates of imprisonment for Indigenous people. Indigenous people represent over 25% of people in federal prison, despite comprising just 4.3% of Canada’s population. And Indigenous women are the fastest growing population among prisoners in federal custody.
In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people account for 2.3% of the population. However, Australian Bureau of Statistics data show the Indigenous incarceration rate in 1991 was 14.4%. In 2015, it was 27.4%. In the March 2016 quarter, it was 28%. The proportion of adult prisoners who identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ranged from 8% in Victoria to 84% in the Northern Territory.
In New Zealand, In February 2017, the prison population hit an all-time high, an increase of 364% in the last 30 years. A month later, the New Zealand Herald reported that 56.3% of that total are Indigenous Maori – also an all-time high – even though Maori make up only 15% of the population. Unfortunately, Maori are seven times more likely to be given a custodial sentence than non-Indigenous and eleven times as many Maori are remanded in custody awaiting trial.
In the United States, Native Americans are incarcerated at a rate 38% higher than the national average, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics meaning that Native men are incarcerated at four times the rate of non-Indigenous men.
We wish to remind the PCB that the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the “Nelson Mandela Rules”), call for health care services to be organized “in a way that ensures continuity of treatment and care, including for HIV, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, as well as for drug dependence.
Like everyone else in society, the people held in these facilities have the right to health. Enough is enough. If we continue with business as usual, the disproportionate rates of incarceration for racial and ethnic minorities, migrants, Indigenous Peoples and impoverished communities will only increase. Surely, prisoners are members of the 10-10-10.