Researchers at the Aleksanteri Institute build database on COVID-19 in prisons worldwide

Prison populations are highly vulnerable during a pandemic, while especially jails and pre-trial detention centres are also hot spots for spreading infections in communities outside prison walls. Different countries are tackling the problem in different ways. Dr. Olga Zeveleva is building a database of responses to COVID-19 in prison systems worldwide, and Dr. Sofia Gavrilova is mapping these trends.

Amid the mounting crisis, researchers at the University of Helsinki Aleksanteri Institute and the University of Oxford are collaborating to build an expansive database on responses to COVID-19 in prison systems around the world.

Dr. Olga Zeveleva works as a postdoctoral researcher on Gulag Echoes, a five year project at the Aleksanteri Institute (University of Helsinki) funded by the European Research Council.  While her research for Gulag Echoes centres on social control in the context of penal systems, she found that her expertise could also be of use in understanding the corona virus crisis and its effects on prisons worldwide.

Zeveleva began gathering data on responses to coronavirus using the sources available online: reports on prison riots and protests published by journalists or NGO's, with quotes from prisoners and their family members. She collaborates with Dr. Sofia Gavrilova, a geographer funded by the Christ Church Research Fund (University of Oxford), to update the different responses to the virus outbreak on a map that is very helpful for getting an overview of the situation.  

The results of the work are published as blog posts at the GULAGECHOES site. In the first post, Coronavirus in prisons, a Global Perspective: Tracking Policy Responses, Releases, and Riot, Dr. Zeveleva takes a look at how the coronavirus crisis is playing out in the prison systems of different countries.