News release

Papua New Guinea: ICRC Detention team participates in Prison Commanders Planning and Strategy Conference

Port Moresby (ICRC) – The ICRC detention team participated in a conference organised by PNG Correctional Services (CS), this week 16 – 20 August in Port Moresby.

The conference brought together all the country's 22 prison commanders for a planning and strategy meeting, including the response to COVID-19. Prisons, which are often overcrowded, are at risk of an explosive outbreak of COVID-19. The first day of the five-day event focused on strengthening preparations for dealing with the coronavirus, especially now that the more contagious delta variant is sweeping across the Pacific.

ICRC has been supporting a technical working group, including representatives from the National Pandemic Control Centre and the National Department of Health, and advising the CS headquarters. The group has steered publication of a 30-page plan that sets out the infection prevention and control measures a prison can implement to reduce the chance of COVID-19 getting into a prison in the first place and, if those defences are breached, how to prevent one case from becoming a major, and potentially fatal, outbreak.

CS Commissioner Stephen Pokanis said: "COVID-19 poses a terrible threat to the health of prisoners, the officers who look after them, and the surrounding communities. I want this conference to build on the successful joint work in dealing with COVID-19, to tackle some of the other long-term health problems that disproportionately affect prison communities, such as tuberculosis."

"The ICRC strives to protect those deprived of their freedom in PNG. Our task is complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is a particular threat to people confined in prison. ICRC is pleased to be able to work together with the PNG Correctional Services, to overcome the many challenges posed by this terrible virus," said Dominik Urban, the ICRC Head of Mission in PNG.

In addition to the prison service leadership, chief executives from provincial health authorities across the country will join the first day of the conference. They will discuss how the prison and health services can best work together, including about how to set up isolation facilities, how to bring testing and vaccinations to prisons, and how to safely care for prisoners who may be infected with the disease, while making sure those who are severely ill are transferred to hospital in time to receive treatment.

ICRC is also supporting a group that brings together leaders from the prison and judicial systems to discuss how to reduce overcrowding, and the risk of COVID-19, by speeding up court processes and applications for parole for low-risk prisoners.

For further information, please contact:
Ziad ABU Laban, ICRC communication manager, tel: +67570880624