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.
With nearly 11 million people incarcerated at any given time across the globe, prison management and the treatment of prisoners are two essential areas within the criminal justice system. Critically, to ensure that imprisonment is used as an opportunity to correct rather than punish, prison administrations must be able to correctly classify prisoners - an important move which helps bolster their ability to rehabilitate and reduce reoffending.
Being able to correctly classify prisoners impacts an array of prison management aspects: it best determines the assessment of inmate risks; it improves the safety and security of prisoners, prison staff and the general public; it bolsters human rights-based custody; and, ultimately, it builds a more effective way of operating a prison system.