India: UNODC fosters India-Maldives cross-learning and regional cooperation on improving health in prison settings with reference to people who use drugs

New Delhi, India/23 February 2023: As part of UNODC’s Criminal Justice and Health reform agenda within the South Asia region, UNODC is implementing a project to prevent health crisis such as COVID-19 and mitigate its spread in prison/correctional settings. The aim is to equip the prison system with better preparedness to prevent public health emergencies, like COVID-19 and to enhance the knowledge, capacities and supplies to support pandemic preparedness and related health responses.

In the Maldives, the project is supporting the National Drug Agency (NDA) and the Maldives Correctional Service (MCS) to strengthen national response mechanisms for persons with substance use disorders through technical and advisory support especially focusing on diversion of drug offenders to treatment and rehabilitation centres, and to support and strengthen the Temporary Drug Remand Centre.

To promote cross-learning and sharing of good practices in the South Asia region, a study visit to India was organised for officials of the NDA and MCS. Organised by UNODC with support of the U.S. Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, the study visit was aimed at strengthening knowledge exchange on drug treatment, care and support for people in contact with the criminal justice system.

The study visit began with a workshop on Alternatives to Incarceration for People Who Use Drugs, bringing together government, health, civil society and experts from India and Sri Lanka to enhance exchange of good practices in health in detention settings.

Opened by UNODC South Asia's Deputy Representative Dr. Suruchi Pant, the workshop featured insightful discussions with focus on alternatives to incarceration for people who use drugs, national and regional response mechanisms and good practices on health in prison settings.

In collaboration with the India Vision Foundation, the delegation also visited the Dasna Jail in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh to observe the rehabilitation and reintegration activities inside the prison. The delegation observed inmates engaged in activities such as embroidery, computer training, hair-cutting salon, radio station, among others in the prison.

Speaking to the media, Prison Superintendent Mr. Alok Singh said, "It is a matter of pride for Dasna Jail that our inmates' creative works have been appreciated by the international delegates. In addition to education, we also teach dance and music to the prisoners."

The Maldivian delegation visited the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre, Ministry of Health as well as their community outreach clinic at Shahdara in New Delhi. The participating officials learned about the Opioid Substitution Therapy as well as Methadone treatment at the community centre and engaged in an open interaction with patients at the clinic.

A visit to the Tihar Prison was also facilitated for the participants, who drug de-addiction centre as well as the hospital at the Tihar Prison. The participants interacted with the medical staff, including psychiatrists, resident medical doctors and laboratory technicians.

Maldivian officials welcomed the study tour, calling it an “informative experience.” Appreciating the skills development initiatives for inmates, the delegation called such activities ‘good practices’ that may also be replicated in other countries.

This activity contributed to SDG 3, SDG 5 and SDG 16:

(Supported by the U.S. Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs)