Adopted at the conclusion of the 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, the Doha Declaration highlights the importance of supporting measures to support the rehabilitation and social reintegration of prisoners into the community.
Within the framework of the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration and its pillar on fair, humane and effective criminal justice systems, UNODC supports Member States in establishing a more rehabilitative approach to prison management.
Investments into corresponding programmes for prisoners are one of the best and most cost-effective ways of preventing their re-offending, with significant benefits not only for the individuals concerned, but also for public safety more broadly.
Supporting rehabilitation programmes in prisons
UNODC will assist Member States in breaking the cycle of re-offending by providing prison administrations with technical guidance on how to initiate and/or enhance rehabilitation programmes, in close coordination with other (non-)governmental stakeholders, including civil society and the private sector. Care will be taken to carefully base all guidance and advisory services on the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) - UNODC's "normative compass" in this regard.
The above development of guidance material will, in a second step, be complemented by UNODC delivering concrete technical assistance to selected Member States around the world to support the implementation of new or enhanced prison-based rehabilitation programmes. Sound planning, including the proposed programme's responsiveness to local needs, human rights compliance as well as sustainability will provide key selection criteria for such support, which will focus on education, vocational training and work programmes for prisoners.
In order to support associated prison policies, UNODC will further develop a standardized electronic prisoner file management system - a software which will enable national prison administration to generate, store and analyze reliable data about their prison population. This is not only a precondition for tailoring rehabilitation programmes to actual needs among prisoners, but also a crucial instrument to ensure transparency and accountability in prison settings.
Launching a self-sustainable global brand of prison products
In a third step, UNODC will consider the initiation of a self-sustainable global brand of prison products - 'A New Chance' - which will be geared towards generating income for prisoners; increasing prisoners' self-esteem, qualifications, and employability upon release; as well as, more generally, towards raising awareness in the general public that prisoners are a continuous part of society. The feasibility of doing so will be assessed in the context of a corresponding study, which will analyze, in detail, requirements in terms of safeguards to preserve prisoners' rights, and on requirements related to marketing and the organizational set-up of such a brand.
For decades, UNODC has provided technical assistance and advisory services to Member States on crime prevention and criminal justice in numerous sectors. One key area has been its work on prisoner rehabilitation programmes, encouraging the fair and humane treatment of prisoners, and helping prepare them to reintegrate society after having served their prison sentences.
With the United Nations General Assembly's adoption in 2015 of the Nelson Mandela Rules, of which UNDOC is the guardian, penal reform programmes have been increasingly set up to strengthen prison management and improve prison conditions, and to facilitate the social integration of prisoners upon release.
Prisoner rehabilitation is both key to protecting society from crime as well as helping prisoners be better prepared for their release. Towards this, training and reintegration initiatives, coupled with post-release support, are essential towards reducing recidivism.
Working to this end, UNODC and the Government of Singapore recently conducted a joint regional training workshop on correctional rehabilitation, bringing together some 63 officials from 16 Asian and Pacific Island countries who are integral in their areas for prisoner rehabilitation activities.
Prisoners might be deprived of their freedom but not their rights!
Under the Doha Declaration Global Programme, we are working hard to promote prisoner rehabilitation and provide inmates with #ANewChance.
In this podcast, we talk to Derrick who spent six years in prison in Zambia before being acquitted. We spoke about life in prison and his decision to open up a Prisoner Reintegration and Empowerment Organization, which - supported by UNODC's Doha Declaration Global Programme - helps former prisoners start a new life.