The Nelson Mandela Rules

History of the Rules:

The origin of the rules dates back to the year 1955 when – following the atrocities of two World Wars – the Member States of the United Nations decided to formulate and adopt internationally acknowledged minimum conditions for the treatment of prisoners. In 2015, following a revision process of more than 5 years, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and named them in honour of the late president of South Africa “The Nelson Mandela Rules”. READ MORE

Content of the Rules:

The 122 provisions of the Nelson Mandela Rules represent the universally acknowledged blueprint for prison management in the 21st century. They outline minimum prison conditions, provide guidance, and set clear benchmarks for prison staff on how to uphold safety, security and human dignity. READ MORE

e-Learning Course

Projects and Partners

Group of Friends

UNODC offers a free, self-paced, interactive and certified e-Learning course on the Nelson Mandela Rules.



UNODC provides technical assistance and advisory services to Member States and promotes the Rules with international partners around the world.


More than 30 Member States of the UN have joined the Vienna-based Group of Friends of the Nelson Mandela Rules.





Model Prison Act and Related Commentary based on the Nelson Mandela Rules EN NEW!

UNODC, Ghana Prisons Service and US Embassy launch new prison reform project 

NMRs will be included in German Prison Staff Training

COVID-19 Guidance Note: Emergency Releases of Prisoners ENFR, ES NEW!

COVID-19 Guidance Note: Infection Prevention and Control Measures in Prisons ENFR, ES NEW!

High-Level Meeting of the Group of Friends: Presentation of the UN System Common Position on Incarceration

United Nations System Common Position on Incarceration NEW!


United Nations Standards and Norms:
(Preparatory work and background material on the Nelson Mandela Rules English)
  • United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders with their Commentary (The Bangkok Rules) EnglishFrenchSpanish
  • United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Non-custodial Measures (The Tokyo Rules) English


 United Nations guidance documents related to incarceration:

  • United Nations System Common Position on Incarceration English NEW! 


 UNODC Criminal Justice Handbook Series (prison reform):

  • Model Prison Act and Related Commentary based on the Nelson Mandela Rules EN NEW!
  • Handbook on restorative justice programmes (2020) English (1st ed.) FrenchFarsiTurkish
  • Handbook of basic principles and promising practices on Alternatives to Imprisonment EnglishFrenchSpanish , Turkish


 UNODC Guidance Notes and information material: