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Open research behind closed doors: Assessing the impact of Covid-19 measures on persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities deprived of liberty

The Coronavirus pandemic has an immense impact on the lives of millions of individuals; equally and especially on persons in detention facilities. Persons deprived of liberty with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities are in a particularly vulnerable situation since they are overrepresented in prisons and ‘disproportionately impacted due to attitudinal, environmental and institutional barriers that are reproduced in the Covid-19 response’ as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights acknowledged.

With this project, the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights (BIM) in cooperation with partners from Italy and Germany aimed to assess the challenges faced during the Covid-19 pandemic by persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities, who are detained as a result of their criminal behaviour and/or as a result of exemption of criminal responsibility due to their disability. More specifically, the project objected to identify paths for future research on the challenges of pandemics in closed institutions, develop recommendations on how the situation of persons deprived of liberty with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities in times of a pandemic can be improved, while simultaneously raising awareness on the topic.

To achieve these goals, the project applied open innovation in science methods. This enabled an early and structured involvement of persons deprived of liberty with psychosocial disabilities, their relatives and experts closely working with them (e. g. lawyers, representatives of extramural care facilities and so on), who actively participated in the conceptualisation of the project, the identification of challenges as well as of pathways for future research at various stages of the project. Moreover, the project was carried out by organisations with longstanding expertise in the field of the rights of persons deprived of liberty, some representing the interests of persons who are deprived of their liberty and of their relatives. With their active involvement through co-developing and co-designing the project the effective engagement and empowerment of persons with lived experience was strengthened.

Following a multi-perspective approach, the project launched a blog post series on the Atlas of Torture exchange platform. The blog provides a space for relatives and other experts to share their expertise and personal experiences. Click here for more information.

Check out the recently released short video about the key findings and recommendations here.

To gain further insight into the topic, please also read the article of our partner organization Strafvollzugsarchiv on the topic "Corona im Justiz- und Maßregelvollzug" (available only in German).

The final comparative infographics are available in the download section below.
You can find the final comparative report here on our website.

Persons involved: 

Nora Katona, Giuliana Monina

Contact persons: 
Lead Organisation: 
Ludwig Boltzmann Institut für Grund- und Menschenrechte
Partner organisations: 
Strafvollzugsarchiv (Deutschland), Antigone (Italien), SiM (Austria)
Project start: 
Project end: 
Funded by: 
LBG, Open Innovation in Science Centre; OIS Enrichment Fund
Human Dignity and Public Security
Offene Forschung hinter verschlossenen Türen: Eine Einschätzung der Auswirkungen von Covid-19 Regelungen auf Personen im Maßnahmenvollzug