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The Full Story


The official foundation and launching of the “Health Without Barriers”, the European Federation for Prison Health, was held at the prestigious headquarters of the British Medical Association (BMA) in London on 15 October 2013.

The Federation represents all the professionals dealing with Prison Healthcare and aims to provide education, recommendations and interdisciplinary collaborations in the field, with a collective voice in research policy.

The newly born European Federation seeks to enhance Prison Healthcare for the overall European public benefit, through the:

  • Promotion of scientific knowledge exchanges in the field of Prison Health;

  • Research and development in the field of Prison Medicine and related publications;

  • Setting-up of shared and common ethical principles and paths on Prison Health;

  • Promotion of good practices and positive experiences data-collection in the field;

  • Organization of conferences, workshops and meetings at European level, including a three yearly European Conference on Prison Medicine;

  • Support on public awareness about Prison Healthcare

The European Federation envisions a global community of internationally networked Prison health experts and stakeholders. Their challenge will positively inspire the international policies on prison issues in order to enhance effective prison evidence-based inmate care, to ensure prison health research assistance and finally to improve the overall quality of life for both prison staff and inmates at European level.


For decades, the world’s prison population has experienced a constant increase, with an average growth of 25-30% during the last fifteen years. At present, about 2 million people are detained in European prisons. But if we consider the high turnover of inmates, about 6 million of them get imprisoned every year in European penitentiaries.

In many Countries, the number of inmates has largely overtaken the capacity system of their prisons, creating overcrowding and several collateral effects.

The impossibility of guarantying the respect of human rights is a fundamental issue affecting European prisons. It is determined by several, interconnected reasons like: overuse of arrest and imprisonment; poor structural conditions; poor prison management; low access to health care etc.


Prison can often become a container of a variety of diseases, like: Mental health issues; Cancer; Sexually transmitted diseases; HBV, HCV, HIV; Tubercolosis; Cardiovascular diseases; Diabetes; Obesity.

Suicide is the last way to escape from a reality of deep discomfort, in which prisoners are forced.

Prisons take people from diverse settings who would not otherwise meet, creating the opportunity to spread bloodborne viruses among them, and then sending them back to their original social networks as potential sources of infection.

Entry in prison can be seen under any perspective as a deprivation of personal freedom.
In most European Countries, the Ministries of Justice or Interior are responsible for health in prison. Recently, in some of these Countries reforms have been implemented, which transfer this responsibility to the Ministry of Health, namely: France, Italy, Norway, Sweden and UK (some Cantons in Switzerland and two regions in Spain). The increasing attention towards prison health observed in the last years, created the ideal conditions in which HWBs could be established and move forward.

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