Maldives: UNODC engages prison officials to strengthen non-custodial measures 

Male, Maldives/18 August 2022: Prisons in several countries face serious challenges, pertaining to infrastructure, overcrowding, health, prisoner classification, management and capacities of prison staff, among others. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the risks posed by overcrowding in detention facilities to the health and well-being of not only prisoners and prison staff but also the society at large. It also places a significant burden on prison resources, both financial and human resources, thereby impacting the application of international human rights standards and norms within the prisons.

UNODC is committed to supporting governments in strengthening non-custodial measures to alleviate prison overcrowding and to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 outbreak in prisons.

In this context, a two-day training workshop on the implementation of non-custodial measures was organised in the Maldives. Over 32 key officials from the Maldives Correctional Service, the National Drug Agency, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Juvenile Justice and the judiciary participated in the training, organised as part of UNODC’s project “Support to COVID-19 Infection Management for People in Prison and Persons with Drug Use Disorders in Maldives.”

The training provided a platform to participants to develop a shared understanding on the provisions of the latest Sentencing Guidelines of the Supreme Court of Maldives and ensuring a coordinated approach in application of new guidelines. The training further assisted the relevant stakeholders in identifying the ways to ensure alternative measures to incarceration are applied as a means to reduce prison overcrowding.

Addressing the participants, Mr. Ahmed Mohamed Fulhu, Commissioner of the Maldives Correctional Service (MCS) reflected on the use of non-custodial measures in Maldives, especially in line with the recent sentencing guidelines by the Supreme Court of Maldives. He further mentioned that it is important to use these measures in minor offences.

Highlighting the need to strengthen alternatives to imprisonment, Dr. Suruchi Pant, Deputy Representative, UNODC Regional Office for South Asia acknowledged the technical support provided by the Maldives Correctional Service as well as other government stakeholders of Maldives.

The training featured an overview on relevant international standards on non-custodial measures and management of overcrowding, and insights on the rehabilitation and treatment of drug users, presented by Ms. Karen Peters, Regional Programme Officer and Ms. Seema Joshi, Criminal Justice Expert, UNODC.

Discussions were also held on identifying the different types of non-custodial measures available both globally as well as in Maldives at the pre-trial and trial stage, mental health disorders in drug users and the treatment and rehabilitation for vulnerable prisoners, including women, foreign inmates, LGBTI persons, elderly and people with disabilities. Good practices in prison management were shared by the Dr. MR Ahmed, former Head of Prison Training Institute at Vellore, India, and Ms. Upneet Lalli, Deputy Director, Institute of Correctional Administration, Chandigarh.

A separate session was conducted by MCS on the issue of overcrowding in Maldives prisons which was followed by a presentation by the Prosecutor General’s office on the recent Supreme Court Guidelines on Sentencing.

UNODC is supporting the National Drug Agency and Maldives Correctional Service on strengthening the national response mechanism for persons with substance use disorders--with technical and advisory support on diversion of drug offenses to treatment and rehabilitation centres and support to establish the Temporary Drug Remand Centre. The interventions are based on relevant international standards and norms, namely the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Non-custodial Measures (the Tokyo Rules, 1990) and the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules, 2010), of which UNODC is a custodian.

This activity contributed to SDG 16:

(Supported by US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs)