Anti-corruption measures in prisons

There is an increasing body of research and material relating to anti-corruption measures for the judiciary, prosecution and police services. In contrast, very little material exists on the corruption risk and measures to address corruption within the prison system. 

Prisons as one of the key justice sector institutions are characterized by a specific vulnerability to acts of corruption due to the closed nature of imprisonment and the inherent risk of insufficient public scrutiny in the form of both internal and external auditing, monitoring and inspection mechanisms (insularity). Furthermore, detention and imprisonment not only mean a severe limitation of the freedom of movement, but also a situation in which inmates depend on prison authorities for almost all of their day to day needs (imbalance of power), which requires a heightened degree of State diligence in order to prevent abuse.

At the same time, corruption can pose a severe security threat to prison staff and prison management, for example, trafficking of mobile phones, drugs or weapons into and inside of prison walls in exchange for bribes, embezzlement of funds for necessary security or infrastructure measures or misappropriation of goods, or hiring practices which do not consider the qualification and integrity of candidates. This risk is further increased if organized crime groups or other high-risk prisoners manage to come into a position of power and control vis-à-vis prison officials.

UNODC has extensive experience in supporting Member States to strengthen the compliance of their penitentiary systems with the international standards and norms related to the management of prison facilities and the treatment of prisoners. In addition, and as the guardian of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), UNODC has specific expertise in supporting Member States to effectively implement the provisions of the UNCAC by providing practical assistance and building the technical capacity needed to develop effective anti-corruption policies and institutions.

Recently, the relevant teams have joined forces to create a Handbook on Anti-Corruption measures in prisons (to be published at the end of 2016) and to provide more support to States parties in integrating anti-corruption measures into prison reforms.