DIGNITY shares knowledge on health monitoring in prisons

Published 07.02.2017
How do you monitor health in places of detention? The answer to that question was at the center of attention, when DIGNITY (Dr Marie Brasholt and Ms Brenda van den Bergh) trained Tunisia’s two monitoring teams on the 25-27th of January.

Around 30 representatives from two monitoring teams participated in the DIGNITY-training focused on how to monitor health in places of detention.

The two teams were the National Monitoring Team consisting of a large group of Civil Society Organizations, and the newly established National Preventive Mechanism.

The participants received info on topics varying from the principles of confidentiality, medical ethics, initial medical examinations, to specific guidelines on how to handle detainees on hunger strike.

For instance, in the case of a hunger strike, the monitoring team should check up on the individual, seek to understand the motivation behind the hunger strike, and look into how the health services of the prison are dealing with the issue, and make sure the detainee’s autonomy is not violated and he/she isn’t force fed as long as he/she is competent.

- The participants were very engaged with the training, and particularly interested in how to deal with hunger strikes, as it seems to be a recurring issue in Tunisian prisons, says Brenda Van Den Bergh, programme advisor at DIGNITY, who helped facilitate the training.

The overall aim of both trainings was to increase the capacity among persons conducting monitoring visits to places of detention with the ultimate aim of preventing torture and ill-treatment.

Prison Health Framework:
DIGNITYs approach to the monitoring of health in places of detention is focused on three main areas:

  • The health of the detainees
  • The health services provided by the prison, including access to treatment and medicine.
  • The factors which may impact the health of detainees, including nutrition, overcrowding, access to exercise, etc.

The National Preventive Mechanism:
The National Preventive Mechanism is established under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). All signatories to the OPCAT needs to establish a system of regular, independent monitoring visits to places of detention, and other closed institutions. 

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