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.
The rapid spread of COVID-19 around the world has demonstrated that everyone is susceptible to the ravages of this virus, with some population groups more at risk than others depending on their age and health conditions. While these factors have been widely publicized , there are some groups which remain less visible in the public eye, but which are nevertheless an integral part of society; prisoners, for whom social distancing is not an option in tight spaces, are unable to take the same precautions as most other members of society.
"It's difficult when you're in prison. Different people face different challenges, but for me, the toughest has been not being able to see my sons who live far away from here." 43-year-old Lina has been in prison for several years but as she nears the end of her sentence in a few short months she is upbeat about returning home. "Often the only thing I, and the others I'm imprisoned with, know is crime - but now I am leaving with options." Indeed, thanks to rehabilitation and reintegration projects such as those instituted by UNODC, Lina and her fellow inmates have hope for a new chance.
As the guardian of the Nelson Mandela Rules (by which the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners are commonly known), UNODC has since long provided technical assistance to Member States on prison reform. With its Prisoner Rehabilitation initiative, a component of the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration, UNODC has also been assisting Member States with the integration of new approaches to prison management and to prisoner rehabilitation.
Penitentiary systems around the world, often with the support of UNODC, are increasingly adopting innovative practices to rehabilitate prisoners before their reinsertion into society. Moving away from traditional sentences meant to merely punish, such programmes are aimed at re-educating prisoners and helping them avoid recidivism, while preparing them to sustain themselves financially and make a positive contribution to society. UNODC's Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration has implemented numerous types of rehabilitative programmes in the prisons of participating Member States, ranging from vocational trainings and certifications to manufacturing.