• Trust, Efficacy and Ethicacy when testing prisoners for Covid19

      Lambert, Steve; Wilkinson, Dean J; University of Chester
      The outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and subsequent Covid-19 illness has had a major impact on all levels of society internationally. The extent of the impact of Covid-19 on prison staff and prisoners in England and Wales is unknown. Testing for Covid-19 both asymptomatic and symptomatic, as well as for antibodies, to date, has been minimal. The widespread testing of Covid-19 in prisons poses philosophical and ethical questions around trust, efficacy and ethicacy. This paper is both descriptive, providing an overview of the widespread testing of Covid-19 in prisoners in England and Wales, and conceptual in that it discusses and argues the issues associated with large-scale testing. This paper provides philosophical discussion, using comparative studies, of the issues associated with large-scale testing of prisoners across the prison estate in England and Wales (120 prisons). The issues identified in this paper are contextualised through the lens of Covid-19, but they are equally transferrable to epidemiological studies of any pandemic. Given the prevalence of Covid-19 globally and the lack of information about its spread in prisons, at the time of writing this paper, there is a programme of asymptomatic testing of prisoners. However, there remains a paucity of data on the spread of Covid-19 in prisons due to the progress with the ongoing testing programme. We argue that the widespread testing of prisoners requires careful consideration of the details regarding who is included in testing, how consent is gained and how tests are administered. This paper outlines and argues the importance of considering the complex nuance of power relationships within the prison system, between prisoner officers, medical staff and prisoners, and the detrimental consequences. The widespread testing of Covid-19 presents ethical and practical challenges. Careful planning is required when considering the ethics of who should be included in Covid-19 testing, how consent will be gained, who and how tests will be administered as well as very practical challenges around the recording and assigning of Covid-19 test kits inside the prison. The current system for the general population requires scanning of barcodes and registration using a mobile number, these facilities are not permitted inside a prison. This paper looks at the issues associated with mass testing of prisoners for Covid-19. There has not been any research that looks at the issues of testing either in the UK or internationally. The literature available details countries responses to the pandemic rather and scientific papers on the development of vaccines. Therefore, this paper is an original review of some of the practicalities that need to be addressed to ensure that testing can be as successful as possible.