The prison setting and health status of people who experience imprisonment increase the risks of COVID-19 infection and sequelae, and other health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To conduct a mixed methods systematic review on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health of people who experience imprisonment.
We searched Medline, PsycINFO, Embase, the Cochrane Library, Social Sciences Abstracts, CINAHL, Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts, Sociological Abstracts, Sociology Database, Coronavirus Research Database, ERIC, Proquest Dissertations and Theses, Web of Science, and Scopus in October 2021. We reviewed reference lists for included studies.
Study eligibility criteria
Original research conducted in or after December 2019 on health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on adults in prisons or within three months of release.
Study appraisal and synthesis methods
We used the Joanna Briggs Institute’s Critical Appraisal Checklist for Qualitative Research for qualitative studies and the Joanna Briggs Institute’s Critical Appraisal Checklist for Studies Reporting Prevalence Data for quantitative studies. We qualitized quantitative data and extracted qualitative data, coded data, and collated similar data into categories.
We identified 62 studies. People in prisons had disproportionately high rates of COVID-19 infection and COVID-19 mortality. During the pandemic, all-cause mortality worsened, access to health care and other services worsened, and there were major impacts on mental wellbeing and on relationships with family and staff. There was limited evidence regarding key primary and secondary prevention strategies.
Our search was limited to databases. As the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing, more evidence will emerge.
Prisons and people who experience imprisonment should be prioritized for COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, and an explicit focus on prisons is needed for ongoing public health work including emergency preparedness.
Prospero registration number