Controlling infectious diseases in prisons

The frequency of infectious disease is higher among people in detention than in the rest of the population. The Epidemics Ordinance obliges all detention centres to protect inmates from the risk of infection and to provide medical treatment for them. 

Commitment of the FOPH

The enforcement of measures involving the deprivation of liberty is the responsibility of the cantons. As part of its statutory competencies, the FOPH is committed to ensuring that detained persons are offered healthcare in accordance with human rights. In the 1990s, the FOPH supported pilot projects to minimise infection in imprisonment. 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). Since 2017 the FOPH has been supporting the National Commission for the Prevention of Torture (NCPT), which on the basis of its legal mandate reviews healthcare for people in imprisonment from a constitutional and human rights perspective.

Epidemiengesetz (Epidemics Act)

The Epidemics Act obliges all detention centres to give inmates access to appropriate measures for preventing infectious diseases. Among other things, they are required 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 Epidemics Act aims to ensure that communicable diseases are detected, monitored, prevented and controlled at an early stage and helps to better manage disease outbreaks with a high risk potential.

Last modification 05.05.2022

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Federal Office of Public Health FOPH
Division of Communicable Diseases
Prevention and Promotion Section
Schwarzenburgstrasse 157
3003 Bern
Tel. +41 58 463 87 06

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