Criminal Justice & Health and Human Rights

Activists calling for humane conditions in South African prisons. Photo Credit: Sonke Gender Justice.

International human rights law recognizes the right of everyone—including incarcerated people—to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. But incarcerated people often receive inadequate and sometimes no access to health services. Rights abuses in prisons contribute to the spread of diseases and ill health, and incarcerated people are a key population for diseases such as HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, and hepatitis. Meanwhile, discriminatory criminal laws result in the disproportionate incarceration of already marginalized people, such as the LGBTQI, the poor and undereducated, and racial, ethnic, and other minorities.

The Human Rights Program produces scholarship and develops guidance for practitioners on health and penal systems. Our work in this area aims to improve conditions of detention and treatment of incarcerated people. With a global interest but a particular emphasis on Southern Africa, we have conducted research and advised advocates on impact litigation to tackle issues such as acute overcrowding in pre-trial detention, and to strengthen monitoring and oversight mechanisms. Our staff also conducts research to guide the implementation of gender and sexuality-sensitive human rights standards for the treatment of women and LGBTQI people in criminal justice systems.

The Program’s scholarship also seeks to critically examine the reliance on criminal justice solutions to complex social problems. Our projects aim to inform theory and practice on criminal law reform to reduce criminalization that results in human rights abuses. Our interests in this area are broad, but place an emphasis on laws that are used to punish diverse expressions of identity, morality, sexuality, and bodily autonomy.

Contact for Criminal Justice & Health and Human Rights: Emily Nagisa Keehn

Share By Email

loading
Close