Increasingly the world over, the concept of rehabilitation is winning ground over that of punishment when dealing with prisoners. Penitentiaries around the globe are striving to effect change by providing inmates with opportunities during their sentence, so that they can more easily be reintegrated into society and become, once again, active and fulfilled members of their communities.
International standards include the Nelson Mandela Rules, of which UNODC is the guardian, stipulating that imprisonment should not be limited to the deprivation of liberty, but that it should be a time for the re-education of prisoners. Rehabilitation includes a number of venues, but for UNODC's Prisoner Rehabilitation initiative, resources and support have been developed in the three core areas of education, vocational training, and employment during prison years, with the goal of contributing to the prisoners' employability after release, and thus reducing chances of recidivism.
The year 2020 has been a challenging one for people across the globe, with COVID-19 impacting individuals and entire societies physically, mentally, socially and financially in an unprecedented manner.
For those in prison though, as well as for the officers in charge of looking after them, the pandemic has proven even more potentially devastating. With factors such as poor hygiene conditions and oftentimes overcrowding, living and working in close proximity makes it near impossible to follow recommended measures, such as frequent handwashing and social distancing.
In these times of global upheaval, some segments of society can be forgotten as big stories compete for attention. Improving the lives of every member of our communities remains the priority for UNODC at all times when it comes to peace, justice and strong institutions, and that includes the circumstances of prisoners as they embark on skills training to provide them with a new chance in life.
This month in Tajikistan, UNODC's Prisoner Rehabilitation initiative, part of the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration, marked another milestone in working with the Tajik authorities to improve prospects for the social reintegration of prisoners.
Despite the widely understood notion that imprisonment should be designed to rehabilitate prisoners ahead of their release, rather than simply punish them for crimes committed, far too often countries lack the resources to put into place structured programmes to ensure lower chances of reoffending. In Kyrgyzstan, as in many parts of the world, this is a challenge for authorities with limited skills training production facilities hampering social reintegration ambitions. Indeed, out of the country's 9,000 prisoners, only 2,000 are currently involved in some form of work programme with a view to foster rehabilitation.
As the main United Nations platform on sustainable development, the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) is an annual gathering of Member States designed to follow-up and review the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As in previous years, HLPF 2020 offers a platform to debate issues impacting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including successes and challenges; however, unlike former gatherings, this year has seen a largely virtual format, in response to COVID-19.