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.
The world is not stationary: it is forever-changing, and we are changing with it. The rule of law does not necessarily mean that we will be utilizing a perfect system of laws which can be applicable anytime, anywhere; new laws are written, some laws become obsolete, and others are adapted. Ideally, in a perfect world, the rule of law should guarantee a continuous pursuit of our evolution on what is just or unjust, what is right or wrong, and what is moral or immoral. Rule of law and its promotion means that despite the system's imperfections, we try to make a world a better place where we have equal opportunities for freedom, education, and life itself, and where justice can actually be served.