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Covid-19 in prison: outbreaks from overcrowding now subsiding

Neill Fronde



PHOTO: Overcrowding in Thai prison led to widespread Covid-19. (via video screencap)

The Thai prison system has suffered from an overcrowding problem for years, but the Covid-19 pandemic has starkly illustrated the dangers of it. In prisons, there have been 72,359 Covid-19 infections, making them more infected than any single province except Bangkok (1st) and its neighbours Samut Prakan (2nd) and Samut Sakhon (4th) and Chon Buri (3rd).

Thailand has the 6th largest prison population in the world and the highest incarceration rate of females in the world. The most recent official statistic for the capacity of all Thai prisons was in 2015, stating 217,000 is the maximum incarcerated people Thailand could hold. By early 2020 the prison population had grown to 374,052 inmates, about 70% higher than max capacity.

Overcrowding is widespread with nearly every single prison reporting a population higher than its maximum capacity. The majority of inmates are held on drug offences – 288,648 in 2020, about 77%.

Covid-19 has placed a spotlight on Thailand’s poor prison conditions that are operating at nearly 70% above maximum capacity. The cramped conditions are a breeding ground for airborne diseases as the Coronavirus has proved. The government poured money into the prison system to try to curb the Covid-19 issue, and progress has been made.

Of the over 72,000 infections in prison, 68,768 have recovered from Covid-19, but yesterday’s 70 new infections brought the total number of patients currently being treated to 1,602. The total reported death toll in the prison population officially stands at 164 inmates.

Though the daily infection numbers are slowly subsiding, 8 prisons throughout Thailand are still reporting struggles with Covid-19 outbreaks and just last month a prison in Nakhon Si Thammarat went into lockdown over a severe outbreak.

Vaccination is also making progress in the prison population of Thailand though, with 313,888 vaccines administered so far. 221,620 prison inmates have received their first Covid-19 vaccine, while 92,268 are fully inoculated after receiving a full dose of 2 vaccines.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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