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UK: Government must consider alternatives to detention following prison lockdown

Following an announcement that prisons in England and Wales have been put on “immediate lockdown” due to the latest coronavirus prevention measures, Amnesty International UK is urging the Government to consider releasing some people held in prisons and immigration detention centres, especially those at heightened risk from the virus.

Allan Hogarth, Amnesty International UK’s Head of Policy and Government Affairs, said:

“Those with underlying medical conditions and the elderly should be immediately considered for alternatives to detention if they do not pose a threat to themselves or society, and there should be a presumption of release for people charged with a criminal offence who are awaiting trial.

“The Government should also consider amending sentencing guidelines to recommend non-custodial measures for people who have been convicted of lesser criminal offences.

“Decreasing the prison population and the number of people in immigration detention centres is a crucial means of slowing the spread of COVID-19 and keeping people safe. Those shown to have an underlying health condition making them more susceptible to the effects of the virus should be considered for release on bail immediately, as should any vulnerable detainees and prisoners who don’t pose a risk to society.

"For those who remain in detention, the authorities must provide a standard of health that meets each person's individual needs, ensuring the maximum possible protection against the spread of COVID-19.”

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