Podcasts: Prisons and Pandemics in South Asia


The recent pandemic has once again highlighted the overcrowding of prison and detention facilities around the world and the risks it poses to the health of not only prisoners and prison staff but also the society at large. More than 11 million people are imprisoned worldwide and confirmed COVID-19 cases among prisoners and/or prison officers continue to increase. In addition, there are incidents of violence in many prisons due to additional restrictions imposed on prisoners.

Countries should take proactive action to address the risks that COVID-19 poses to confined populations for whom physical distancing is not an option. Promising initiatives are underway, and many countries have resorted to measures such as releasing of certain categories of prisoners and curbing new admissions. Alternatives to pre-trial detention, commutation or temporary suspension of certain sentences will be valuable instruments to reduce new admissions to prisons.

The extraordinary risk that COVID-19 is posing in prison settings brings back into the spotlight long-standing calls of the United Nations to limit the use of imprisonment as a measure of last resort, address prison overcrowding, and to fully live up to the duty of care which States assume when depriving individuals of their liberty.

Deep Dive Dialogues

UNODC's “Deep Dive” Dialogues is an effort to foster an open dialogue between leading changemakers and to bring to the fore the best of insights on security, justice and health.

Amid COVID-19, "Deep Dive Dialogues" are being convened to demystify issues around prisons and the pandemic in South Asia, and recognize the efforts and interventions being undertaken  by Member States and partners on criminal justice responses and prison reforms.

In the latest edition of the "Deep Dive Dialogues" senior government and law enforcement experts from Sri Lanka engage in an open discussion on "Prisons and COVID-19: Non-Custodial Measures and Alternatives to Imprisonment in Sri Lanka".

Made possible with the generous support of Germany, the discussion focuses on innovative approaches in prison reforms, addressing overcrowding in prisons and emerging risks to prisoners and prison staff.

The Dialogue features: 

Mr. Udaya Rohan De Silva, President's Counsel and Attorney-At-Law, Sri Lanka

Mr. Ajith Rohana, Deputy Inspector General, Sri Lanka Police

Mr. Jayasiri Thenakoon, Commissioner General of Prisons, Sri Lanka

Ms. Anusha Munasinghe, Programme Manager (Sri Lanka), UNODC Regional Office for South Asia

Ms. Seema Joshi Arya, Criminal Justice Expert, UNODC Regional Office for South Asia 

Ms. Jamie Lee, Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer, UNODC 

Watch: Prisons and COVID-19 in Sri Lanka 


In an effort to promote voices from the ground, UNODC is featuring stories from frontline responders through the "Conversations" series. Through a set of podcasts, the aim is to highlight and recognize the efforts and interventions being undertaken in South Asia by UNODC partners in field on criminal justice responses and prison reforms.

Listen to UNODC's "Conversations" podcasts featuring experts from the ground, in conversation with Ms. Seema Joshi Arya, UNODC Criminal Justice Expert:

Mr. Ahmed Mohamed, Commissioner of Prisons, Maldives Correctional Service (Maldives)

Mr. Ahmed Mohammed is currently serving as the Commissioner of Maldives Correctional Service. In his previous role, he also served as an inspector of correctional service to oversight prisons and custodial settings. He was also the Director of National Preventive Mechanism to implement the Optional Protocol of Convention against Torture. 

Listen: In Conversation with Mr. Ahmed Mohamed