Intravenous drug use in overpopulated prisons not only fuel sthe spread of HIV but also pose a health risk to the general population when HIV-positive inmates are released, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as reported on by Reuters.

“This is a health bomb because of HIV [the prisoners] take along, and this is a bomb because prisons are universities for criminals,” said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of UNODC.

According to the article, the UNODC estimates that globally there about 30 million inmates at any given time, making it common for jails to house two to three times their maximum capacity, particularly in Africa and Central America.

Costa pointed out that constructing larger prisons isn’t a priority during the current global economic crisis and that funds go first to health care, children, education and the elderly. He suggests the United Nations promote punishment alternatives for those who commit minor crimes and encourage countries to adhere to U.N. guidelines on how prisoners should be adequately clothed, fed and sheltered.