Handbook on the international transfer of sentenced persons

Photo: UNODC16 October 2012 - In an age of international travel and migration it is increasingly common for criminals to commit offences and be sentenced to terms of imprisonment or other forms of deprivation of liberty abroad. This raises the question of how best to deal with persons sentenced in jurisdictions other than their own. In some countries foreign persons are immediately deported upon conviction, however this may result in such individuals escaping punishment and no information regarding the offence being made available to the country of origin. On the other hand, foreign persons may serve their sentences in the country where the crimes were committed, though this may inhibit their rehabilitation, e.g. because of language barriers, distance from family, difficulties in participating in educational or vocational programmes, limited access to early release programmes or alternatives to imprisonment.

The Handbook on the International Transfer of Sentenced Persons has been developed to explain how returning sentenced persons to their country of nationality or permanent residence to serve their sentences can contribute to the fair, effective and just treatment of foreign offenders. The primary focus of the handbook is on arrangements that can be made to transfer sentenced persons, so they can serve their sentences in accordance with the laws of the receiving State.

Targeted at all actors involved in the criminal justice system, this handbook can be used as both a reference document and a training tool. The purpose of the handbook is to provide an overview of contemporary multilateral and bilateral agreements and to explain the key elements of the numerous instruments that exist to assist in the transfer of sentenced persons. This specialized area of law forms part of the growing international cooperation between States in criminal justice matters.

This handbook is part of a series of tools developed by UNODC to support countries in implementing the rule of law and developing criminal justice reform. The overarching goal of this handbook is to assist States to adopt such legislative provisions, and to help States that have already entered into transfer agreements to utilise them more effectively.

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