Adopted at the conclusion of the 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, the Doha Declaration highlights the importance of supporting measures to support the rehabilitation and social reintegration of prisoners into the community.
Within the framework of the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration and its pillar on fair, humane and effective criminal justice systems, UNODC supports Member States in establishing a more rehabilitative approach to prison management.
Investments into corresponding programmes for prisoners are one of the best and most cost-effective ways of preventing their re-offending, with significant benefits not only for the individuals concerned, but also for public safety more broadly.
Supporting rehabilitation programmes in prisons
UNODC will assist Member States in breaking the cycle of re-offending by providing prison administrations with technical guidance on how to initiate and/or enhance rehabilitation programmes, in close coordination with other (non-)governmental stakeholders, including civil society and the private sector. Care will be taken to carefully base all guidance and advisory services on the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) - UNODC's "normative compass" in this regard.
The above development of guidance material will, in a second step, be complemented by UNODC delivering concrete technical assistance to selected Member States around the world to support the implementation of new or enhanced prison-based rehabilitation programmes. Sound planning, including the proposed programme's responsiveness to local needs, human rights compliance as well as sustainability will provide key selection criteria for such support, which will focus on education, vocational training and work programmes for prisoners.
In order to support associated prison policies, UNODC will further develop a standardized electronic prisoner file management system - a software which will enable national prison administration to generate, store and analyze reliable data about their prison population. This is not only a precondition for tailoring rehabilitation programmes to actual needs among prisoners, but also a crucial instrument to ensure transparency and accountability in prison settings.
Launching a self-sustainable global brand of prison products
In a third step, UNODC will consider the initiation of a self-sustainable global brand of prison products - 'A New Chance' - which will be geared towards generating income for prisoners; increasing prisoners' self-esteem, qualifications, and employability upon release; as well as, more generally, towards raising awareness in the general public that prisoners are a continuous part of society. The feasibility of doing so will be assessed in the context of a corresponding study, which will analyze, in detail, requirements in terms of safeguards to preserve prisoners' rights, and on requirements related to marketing and the organizational set-up of such a brand.
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Since 2010, the United Nations has celebrated today as Nelson Mandela International Day to recognize the birthday of South Africa's former President and his outstanding contribution to a culture of peace and freedom. For UNODC, Nelson Mandela International Day is also a time to draw attention to the more than 10 million prisoners worldwide as well as to the work of those entrusted with their safe, secure and humane custody.
With the memory of Nelson Mandela in mind, who himself had to spend 27 years of his life in prison, the General Assembly adopted the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners in December 2015 as 'the Nelson Mandela Rules'.
Developing a global brand of prison products moved a step closer to being realized this week with the bringing together of key prison administrators from across Latin America. Part of the Doha Declaration Global Programme, the event was organized to explore new and innovative approaches within the Latin American region which are being used to mitigate the social, economic and personal challenges faced by prisoners and reduce the risk of recidivism through rehabilitation. By identifying programmes which support prisoner's ability to lead self-sustained lives, the aim is to support the wider ideal of promoting a culture of lawfulness.
Work-related activities within prisons play a critical role for both prisoners and society. Rehabilitation provides prisoners an opportunity to develop skills, increase post-release employability and contribute to families and society.
UNODC's work supports this and we're looking to build a global brand of prison products to further boost rehabilitation efforts. Recently prison practitioners from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, EL Salvador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay gathered to discuss this issue, bringing with them a vast selection of items from their countries.
Prison-based rehabilitation is a complex issue: while prisoners typically face a range of social, economic and personal challenges that may complicate their social reintegration into society, prisons often lack sufficient infrastructure, programmes, and resources, and may even exacerbate these problems.
In order to reduce re-offending, therefore, it is crucial to actively prepare prisoners for their successful re-settlement in society.
With this in mind, UNODC are hosting Expert Group Meetings and workshops to bring together a number of experts in a bid to encourage a comprehensive, rehabilitative approach to prison management.
We spoke with Uju Agomoh, National Project Coordinator with UNODC in Nigeria about the main benefits of rehabilitation programmes in prisons during one of these meetings.