A systematic scoping review of environmental health conditions in penal institutions

Adequate environmental health conditions in penal institutions are necessary to protect and promote the health of prisoners and prison workers. We conducted a scoping systematic review to: describe the environmental health conditions in penal institutions and the associated exposures and health outcomes; identify effective approaches to prevent environmental health concerns; and identify evidence gaps on environmental health in penal institution populations. PubMed, Web of Science, EBSCOhost, Scopus, and ProQuest were searched. Peer-reviewed studies that reported original data and on environmental health conditions and/or exposures in penal institutions were included. Seventy-three studies met these criteria. The most common risk factor identified was contaminated food and/or beverages prepared or handled in the institution’s kitchen. Overcrowding, inadequate ventilation, and a lack of, or sharing of, soap and other hygiene products increased the risk of adverse health outcomes. Common responses included isolating infectious patients, educating prisoners and prison staff on improved sanitation and hygiene practices, improving ventilation, and disinfecting contaminated surfaces and/or water sources. Inadequate environmental health conditions in penal institutions are common, and adversely impact the health of prisoners and prison staff, yet are preventable. Few studies have been conducted in low- and middle-income countries, biasing our results. The development and implementation of national guidelines for essential environmental health in prisons, monitoring of conditions, and greater accountability of facility managers are needed to secure the health, rights, and well-being of prisoners.

A systematic scoping review of environmental health conditions in penal institutions. W. Guo, R. Cronk, E. Scherer, R. Oommen, J. Brogan, M. Sarr, J. Bartram. 2019. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health 222, pp. 790-803. doi.org/10.1016/j.ijheh.2019.05.001