This teaching guide is a resource for lecturers
The Modules cover three thematic areas:
- the international legal and normative framework for crime prevention and criminal justice;
- responses to crime; and
- access to justice.
1) The international legal and normative framework for crime prevention and criminal justice
SDG 16 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for the promotion of “peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development,” the provision of “access to justice for all,” and the building of “effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” For this goal to be achieved, individuals must understand and respect the rule of law. A robust education system is central to the realization of this goal, playing a vitally important role in instilling the shared values necessary for the respect for the rule of law in societies. Respect for the rule of law, and the creation and maintenance of fair, humane, and accountable criminal justice institutions is an important means of mitigating the risk of human rights abuses that can sometimes occur when individuals are in contact with justice institutions/processes. Crime prevention and criminal justice norms and standards, which promote the rule of law, were created to identify, evaluate, address, and prevent these risks, particularly structural issues within criminal justice institutions that can lead to misconduct, excessive use of force, corruption, mass incarceration, gender discrimination, and inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners. The Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Modules discuss and examine these standards and norms and their application to the policies, procedures, and practices of criminal justice institutions (see Module 1 United Nations Norms and Standards on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice; Module 2 Crime Prevention; Module 3 Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Proceedings; Module 4 Use of Force and Firearms; Module 5 Police Accountability, Integrity and Oversight; Module 6 Prison Reform; and Module 14 Independence of the Judiciary and the Role of Prosecutors).
2) Responses to crime
Essential elements of SDG 16, which include the development of “effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels” and the provision of “access to justice for all,” can be achieved through the building and maintenance of fair and humane criminal justice institutions, policies and practices (e.g. responses to crime). Responses to crime, such as criminal justice sanctions, including incarceration, are an integral component of the rule of law. The Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Modules cover responses to crime, particularly the types of and justifications for criminal justice sanctions (introduced in Module 6 Prison Reform and covered in greater detail in Module 7 Alternative to Imprisonment and Module 8 Restorative Justice). Specifically, Module 6 critically evaluates incarceration practices, reform efforts, and correctional facilities, looking in particular at the treatment of prisoners within prisons, overcrowding in prisons, and the living and working conditions in prisons. Module 6 not only identifies the purpose of and justifications for punishment but also provides an in-depth exploration of one form of punishment – namely, incapacitation. In addition to imprisonment, the objectives, efficacy, and impact of non-custodial forms of punishment are examined in the Modules (see Module 7 and Module 8).
3) Access to justice
“Access to justice for all” is not only an essential part of SDG16, it is also a key focus of UNODC’s work on crime prevention and criminal justice. In line with SDG 16, UNODC supports the creation of fair and non-discriminatory practices that promote “access to justice for all,” including legal aid. Accordingly, several Modules of the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Series and/or sections of the Modules cover justice needs and rights of those adversely impacted by crime, including attention to: victims’ rights and access to justice; treatment of victims by criminal justice agents and institutions; and remedies for crime victims (seeModule 9 Gender in the Criminal Justice System; Module 10 Violence Against Women and Girls; Module 11 Justice for Victims; Module 12 Violence Against Children; and Module 13 Justice for Children). Finally, in several Modules of this series and/or sections of the Modules focus on the rights of and justice for women, children and members of the lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual and intersex communities (LGTBI) (see, for example, Module 9 Gender in the Criminal Justice System; Module 10 Violence Against Women and Girls; Module 12 Violence Against Children; and Module 13 Justice for Children). These Modules explore gender-based violence and discrimination; gendered assumptions and omissions in national laws; and crime prevention and criminal justice responses to violence against women, LGBTI, and children, as well as the efficacy of these responses.
What is often missing from crime prevention and criminal justice curricula is the situating of the above-mentioned thematic areas within the literature on the rule of law, ethics, and human rights. The Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Modules seek address this gap by critically exploring the role of the rule of law, ethics, and human rights in: crime prevention and criminal justice efforts; the practices of criminal justice agencies and agents; punishment; and victimization.
The Modules were conceptualized from an interdisciplinary perspective, and they were developed with academics from various fields prior to a process of academic peer review. The Modules were also designed to ensure a bottom up perspective (as they are concerned with the individuals that rely on justice systems, such as the most vulnerable or marginalized individuals/communities), bearing mind the broader international, regional, national legal and policy frameworks that shape justice responses on the above-mentioned issues. The Modules feature a range of case studies to explore the point at which these crime prevention and criminal justice considerations meet the international legal framework, and the needs and rights of the individuals who require access to justice.
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