Academic News & Views – Juan Méndez on the Right to a Healthy Prison Environment

Respect for the dignity of prisoners is a fundamental right, intrinsically linked to States’ obligations to maintain a healthy environment for persons deprived of liberty. A healthy environment requires structural integrity of prison systems, access to medical care and treatment, health care services, including dental, psychological, and rehabilitative services, and opportunity for prisoners to exercise. 

For women prisoners and other vulnerable persons, prison systems must recognize and provide necessary special arrangements for the safety and wellbeing of such persons. Additionally, health care professionals play a critical role in detecting and documenting instances of torture, and it is vital that all health professionals be trained in the Istanbul Protocol to utilize it properly. It can be vital to the fate of victims of torture and can transform a health professional’s role from one of not only therapist but also advocate for victims.

Conclusion taken from the recent article, ‘Right to a Healthy Prison Environment: Health Care in Custody Under the Prism of Torture’ by Professor Juan E. Méndez, Washington College of Law, American University.

Juan Méndez
Juan Ernesto Méndez, Special Rapporteur on Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment addresses during the 16th Session of the Council of Human Rights
– UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré (2011).

In the article Professor Méndez addresses the following areas as they apply to a healthy prison environment:

  • Conditions of detention;
  • Medical care and health services in prison;
  • Women and other vulnerable persons in prison or detention, including LGBTI and disabled persons;
  • Istanbul Protocol and Nelson Mandela Rules.

The conclusion highlighted above draws on all of these threads as well as the invaluable insights of Professor Méndez in his former capacity of UN Special Rapporteur on Torture from 2010-2016.

Read the full article in English.

Reference: Méndez JE, ‘‘Right to a Healthy Prison Environment: Health Care in Custody Under the Prism of Torture’ (2019) 9(1) Notre Dame Journal of International & Comparative Law 40.

Who is Professor Juan E. Méndez? Read his full United Nations biography.

Watch the video of the former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Méndez ‘In His Own Words’.

Read past Canada OPCAT Project Academic News & Views.