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The Nelson Mandela Rules, an updated Guide for Prison Management

On December 17 th 2015 a revised version of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMRs) was unanimously adopted at the 70th session of the UN General Assembly. This event preceded a review process of several years after the decision of the General Assembly in 2011 to establish an open-ended intergovernmental Expert Group to review and possibly revise the SMRs

The nine areas of the Standard Minimum Rules which have been revised are: Prisoners´ inherent dignity as human beings; Vulnerable groups of prisoners; Medical and health services; Restrictions, discipline and sanctions; Investigation of deaths and torture in custody; Access to legal representation; Complaints and inspections; Terminology; and Staff training.

The revised rules are known as the "Nelson Mandela Rules" to honour the legacy of the late President of South Africa, Mr. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison in the course of his struggle for global human rights, equality, democracy and the promotion of a culture of peace.

Within this context, the General Assembly requested UNODC to ensure broad dissemination of the Nelson Mandela Rules, to design guidance material and to provide technical assistance and advisory services to Member States in the field of penal reform, in order to develop or strengthen penitentiary legislation, procedures, policies and practices in line with the Rules. UNODC is well positioned to fulfill this mandate in the framework of its Strategy (2015-2017) to address global prison crisis.

The Nelson Mandela Rules constitute an updated guide to manage prison systems safely and humanely and represent one of the major advances in human rights in recent years.


To learn more about Nelson Mandela Rules visit:

Resolution of the General Assembly which approves the Nelson Mandela Rules

UNODC Brochure on the Rules Nelson Mandela