Sri Lanka: UNODC Workshop Promotes Non-Custodial Measures, Mandela Rules among Prison Officials

Kandy, Sri Lanka/26 September 2020: There is a growing international recognition that insufficient use of alternatives to imprisonment and an excessive use of pre-trial detention and imprisonment are key drivers of the continuing growth of prison populations, prison overcrowding and inadequate prison conditions worldwide. Many countries, including Sri Lanka, rely heavily on imprisonment as the default or only means of criminal sanction. Overcrowded prisons and detention facilities serve as fertile breeding grounds for radicalization to violence, often rendering those sentenced for minor offences vulnerable to recruitment by violent extremist or terrorist groups. 

UNODC seeks to address this situation by promoting non-custodial measures. In Sri Lanka, a project was initiated to bolster crime prevention and criminal justice reform. The aim was to enable a coordinated approach in three strategic areas: strengthening community rehabilitation, streamlining prison management; and promoting non-custodial measures in suitable cases.

In this context, a workshop on promoting alternatives to imprisonment was convened in Kandy on 25-26 September for officers of the Community-Based Corrections Department working in the Central and North Central Provinces of Sri Lanka.

The workshop aimed at building capacities of over 30 participant officials in implementing community correction orders and non-custodial measures. The discussions focused on the international framework governing alternatives to imprisonment, importance of establishment and implementation of Community Based Corrections Program at various levels, changing the perspective of minor offenders regarding the punishment and behavior, the role of the Community, the practice of referring drug dependents for rehabilitation using community orders, community-based Corrections Act and the judicial perspective.

Community service by order of the court is an example of an alternative to a prison sentence in Sri Lanka. Community services as a penal sanction was first introduced by the Code of Criminal Procedure Act No. 15 of 1979. The sentence however was not imposed effectively by courts due to procedural difficulties. With the introduction of the Community Based Corrections Act, No. 46 of 1999 the sentence is now being used by magistrate courts throughout the country.  

This activity was held in the framework of the UNODC project on "Promoting Effective use of Non-Custodial Measures in Sri Lanka as a measure of Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism”, jointly with the UNODC Regional Office for South Asia and with the financial support of the Government of Germany.

This project will also contribute to achieving and promoting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in particular SDG 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels while contributing to Gender mainstreaming and the respect and observance of Human Rights in line with UN principles. The cross-cutting principle of “leave no one behind” is of primary importance.