Controlling infectious diseases in prisons

The frequency of infectious disease is higher among the prison population than in the community. The Epidemiengesetz (Epidemics Act) obliges all prisons to protect prisoners from the risk of infection and to provide medical treatment for them. 

Commitment of the FOPH

The enforcement of sentences and other measures is the responsibility of the cantons. As part of its statutory competencies, the FOPH is committed to ensuring that people in custody are offered healthcare in accordance with human rights. In the 1990s, the FOPH supported pilot tests to minimise infection in prisons. From 2008 to 2012, it conducted a project entitled “Controlling Infectious Diseases in Prisons (BIG)” in partnership with the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) and the Conference of Cantonal Justice and Police Directors (KKJPD).

Efforts at national level

On completion of the BIG project, the cantons created the Santé Prison Suisse organisation, or SPS (“Prison Health Switzerland”). SPS makes the information and recommendations resulting from the BIG project on the prevention of infectious diseases available to people in custody and prison staff. However, the prime objective of SPS as a national platform for health issues in law enforcement is to help develop consistent healthcare across all prisons, numbering more than 100. The FOPH is represented on the expert committee of the SPS.

Epidemiengesetz (Epidemics Act)

With the entry into force of the revised Epidemics Act on 1 January 2016, all prisons were obliged to give prisoners access to appropriate measures for preventing infectious diseases. Among other things, it obliges prisons to offer people in their care a medical questionnaire on admission, to inform them about infectious diseases and, if necessary, provide access to condoms, clean material for the injection of drugs, and treatment involving prescription of controlled drugs.

Further information

Communicable Diseases Legislation – Epidemics Act, (EpidA)

The new Federal Act of 3.12.2010 on the control of communicable human diseases (Epidemics Act; EpidA) has been in force since 1.1.2016, and enables a timely detection, monitoring, prevention and control.

Last modification 09.07.2019

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Federal Office of Public Health FOPH
Division of Communicable Diseases
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