Rolling back the prison estate: the pervasive impact of macroeconomic austerity on prisoner health in England

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Prisons offer policymakers an opportunity to address the pre-existing high prevalence of physical and mental health issues among prisoners. This notion has been widely integrated into international and national prison health policies, including the Healthy Prisons Agenda, which calls for governments to address the health needs of prisoners and safeguard their health entitlement during imprisonment, and the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 concerning reducing inequality among disadvantaged populations.

However, the implementation of the austerity policy in the United Kingdom since the re-emergence of the global financial crisis in 2008 has impeded this aspiration. This interdisciplinary paper critically evaluates the impact of austerity on prison health. The aforementioned policy has obstructed prisoners’ access to healthcare, exacerbated the degradation of their living conditions, impeded their purposeful activities and subjected them to an increasing level of violence.

This paper calls for alternatives to imprisonment, initiating a more informed economic recovery policy, and relying on transnational and national organizations to scrutinize prisoners’ entitlement to health. These systemic solutions could act as a springboard for political and policy discussions at national and international forums with regard to improving prisoners’ health and simultaneously meeting the aspirations of the Healthy Prisons Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfdz058
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Public Health Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2019


  • austerity
  • England
  • neoliberalism
  • prisoner health
  • prisons
  • recession


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