Ex-presidents and ex-prime ministers are surprisingly often convicted of crimes and sometimes sent to jail. Sarkozy, Olmert, Lee, Katsav , and Park are recent examples.

What do countries do about the physical security of these people, assuming they still don't want to them to come to harm?

  • 16
    US Presidents ans ex-Presidents have extraordinary levels of protection by international standards. Many countries do not provide any protection to ex-leaders unless there are specific indications of a threat.
    – o.m.
    Jun 14 at 15:04
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    I think a lot of this depends on the country in question as there are some that almost never or never have convicted one.
    – Joe W
    Jun 14 at 15:10
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    The safety of ordinary prisoners varies a lot between countries and also between individual prisons. If a country has low security prisons for non-violent offenders then maybe that would be considered sufficient. OTOH if the ex-president is considered a political threat then putting them in a high security prison with a high casualty rate might be seen as a good idea by a new incumbent. Jun 14 at 15:19
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    @Simd, news18.com/news/buzz/… is an example of a current head of government without bodyguard. A little country, admittedly.
    – o.m.
    Jun 14 at 16:35
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    I didn't realise it was so common for ex-premiers to become convicted criminals!
    – Steve
    Jun 14 at 19:10

1 Answer 1


They are in jail, so the only people who can "get" them are the other inmates.

The security inside jails is provided by the prison wardens, working under the prison governor. See 'Prison Governance'.

A governor is ultimately responsible for everything that happens within a prison [... including] safety, security and rehabilitation.

For high profile prisoners, or other who may be at greater risk from other inmates (such as sex offenders, particular child abusers) special security arrangements may be made. This could mean isolation from other inmates, or individually tasked wardens. Governors have a duty to keep prisoners safe and secure, and the operational independence to do that.

Not all prisoners are equal in terms of the threat they pose, and so not all prisons are equal. Non-violent prisoners with lower risk of attempted escape are likely to be held under different security conditions from those considered to be more dangerous and more likely to flee.

But the security of prisoners is the responsibility of the Governor, and exercised by the prison wardens and other working for the Governor, such as cooks, office staff etc.

  • I don't think that "...so the only people who can 'get' them are the other inmates" is a well-supported assertion by a long shot. There are guards, doctors, lawyers, cooks, staff... if an assassination, threat of violence, or clandestine interrogation is considered valuable enough, there's always ways to make things happen via careful planning, bribery, threats...
    – uhoh
    Jun 15 at 8:01
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    @quarague assassination is by definition not random.
    – phoog
    Jun 15 at 11:06
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    The U.K., of course, does not have any ex-Presidents, and its legal system has absolute immunity for a living monarch.
    – ohwilleke
    Jun 15 at 20:59
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    @JamesK yes, all bets are definitely off! Both US and UK prison systems are rife with mysterious deaths and not-so-mysterious deaths at the hands of prison guards - there's an established baseline of bi-directional violence and murder.
    – uhoh
    Jun 16 at 0:52
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    Just as a counter to the high profile defence, for the US at least, we can look at the case of Jeffery Epstein. Claims are that he hung himself, but normal processes weren't followed on the night of his death - what happens in practice and what procedure says should happen are two quite different things. I'm aware he isn't an ex-president but still shows the system isn't without precedent for failing to look after high profile inmates. Jun 16 at 10:06

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