Leaving no one behind in prison: improving the health of people in prison as a key contributor to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals 2030

BMJ Glob Health. 2021 Mar;6(3):e004252. doi: 10.1136/bmjgh-2020-004252.


Worldwide, approximately 11 million people are currently being held in prison, a number that has steadily grown since the turn of the 21st century. The prison population is more likely to suffer from physical and mental ailments both during and prior to their imprisonment due to poverty, social exclusion and chaotic lifestyles. Recognition of people in prison is noticeably absent from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), despite the goals' ethos of 'leaving no one behind'.We present the first analysis of how improving the health of people in prison can contribute to achieving 15 SDGs. Relevant indicators are proposed to fulfil these goals while meeting the existing international prison health standards. We also assess the political, economic and social challenges, alongside the unparalleled COVID-19 pandemic that can thwart the realisation of the SDGs. To reach the 'furthest behind first', prison health must be at the forefront of the SDGs.

Keywords: health policy; health systems; public health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Goals*
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Humans
  • Prisons*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Sustainable Development*
  • World Health Organization