Assisting the Process of Prison Reform in Southern Sudan - Building Leadership Capacity within the Prisons Service and Addressing the Circumstances of Prisoners with Specific Needs (Phase II)  

Project Status: Completed

Project Duration: 05/2008 - 01/2011

Total Budget: US $4,359,500


  1. Government of Canada - Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START)
  2. Government of the United States of America - US State Department, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL)


Southern Sudan Prisons Service (SSPS)

Implementing Partners

  1. The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) Rule of Law Corrections Advisory Unit
  2. The International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy (ICCLR)

Outline and Objectives

Twenty-three years of civil war had far-reaching and devastating effects on the social and economic development of Sudan. An entire generation was born and raised in conflict, the result of which was the development of a military culture, the erosion of the rule of law and widespread poverty.

After more than two decades of bloodshed, the UN-brokered Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in 2005 between the Sudanese Government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). Following the conclusion of the Agreement, autonomy was given to the South and the Interim Constitution of Southern Sudan was adopted leading to the creation of the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS). The CPA incorporated wealth and power sharing provisions and recognized the right to self-determination by including a provision for a referendum on national sovereignty.

During the period between the signing of the CPA in 2005 and South Sudan gaining independence in 2011, GoSS committed itself to strengthening institutional capacity and prioritized the establishment of a functional criminal justice system which adheres to the rule of law, and which is respected by law enforcement officials and the community. In order to support this enormous undertaking, and recognizing the value of joint programming, the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) Corrections Advisory Unit invited UNODC and the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy (ICCLR) to undertake a joint assessment of the prison system. As a result, UNODC and ICCLR experts began actively working with the Southern Sudan Prisons Service (SSPS) in 2007 .

At the time the UNODC prison reform programme was launched, the Prisons Service was comprised of approximately 17,000 officers, the majority of which were former SPLA soldiers and guerilla fighters with no prior knowledge of prison work. The majority were illiterate having never received formal education and the rest included a few professional officers who were in continuous service during the war, as well as some prison personnel who left the service to enlist as soldiers but who were later deployed back to the SSPS after the signing of the CPA in 2005. The prison population, on the other hand, was estimated to be around 6,000 however generating accurate data continues to be a challenge because of a persisting lack of communication between smaller rural prisons and the various Prisons Service headquarters at the state level.

The SDNU48 project refers to the second phase of activities implemented under the UNODC prison reform programme in Southern Sudan. While the activities under Phase I (December 2007 to August 2008) began the process of building the institutional capacity of the Prisons Service, Phase II (September 2008 to August 2010) focused on addressing the need for human resources, leadership development and skills training. Project activities were designed to build on the willingness of the Prisons Service leadership to engage in sustained reforms, including by encouraging coordination with other criminal justice actors.  Project outcomes under the Phase II project included:

  1. Building a leadership cadre;
  2. Developing management and information systems;
  3. Developing laws, policies and standing orders to support reforms;
  4. Ensuring lawful detention and adherence to the rule of law;
  5. Improving the well-being of vulnerable groups of prisoners; and
  6. Improving prison conditions and prisoner health.

Key Achievements

  • Prison leaders exposed to international minimum standards;
  • Prison officers acquired an understanding of the unique needs of vulnerable groups of prisoners;
  • Prison officers who participated in training exercises in Phase I facilitated training courses in specific areas of prison work in Phase II;
  • Significant infrastructure improvements were made to selected prisons;
  • Health and sanitation issues are increasingly prioritized by the Prisons Service;
  • The concept of 'alternatives to imprisonment' is now widely acknowledged as a priority area requiring the active cooperation of all criminal justice actors;
  • A probation function was revived through the formal establishment of a Probation and Aftercare Unit;
  • A pilot juvenile probation programme was launched in Juba Central Prison;
  • Court liaison was introduced as a function of the prison system.