The global prison population has been steadily increasing in the recent decades. It is estimated that there currently are 11.7 million people behind bars globally – a figure that has increased by 25% since 2000. Particularly problematic is the fact that 40% of those behind bars are estimated to be in pre-trial detention, not yet convicted of a crime. While women constitute a small minority in most jurisdictions, the number of women prisoners has increased at a higher rate compared to men.
The excessive use of imprisonment is an important factor that has contributed to overcrowded prisons. In a solid majority of the countries around the world, prisons are operating over capacity. This has brought with it a range of challenges, such as inadequate prison conditions and health, impaired safety and security as well as an inability to invest into the rehabilitation and social reintegration of prisoners.
The most acute challenge in the past year was the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 pandemic in prison settings. Every country, regardless of the development context, was heavily affected by the elevated risk of infections and outbreaks amongst prisoners and prison staff.
As far back as 1990, the international community strove to promote effective use non-custodial measures by adopting the Tokyo Rules. This global commitment was further strengthened by the adoption of the Bangkok Rules in 2010, which reiterated the importance of maximizing the use of non-custodial measures for women offenders. In 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the Nelson Mandela Rules, which constitute the universally acknowledged minimum standards for prison management and the treatment of prisoners. However, there unfortunately remains a wide gap between the international commitments and the actual realities on the ground.
“Rethinking Incarceration” is a film screening series hosted by UNODC as part of its efforts to highlight the urgent need to rethink the use and actual implementation of incarceration, and to assist Member States in this area. It is hoped that the various initiatives around the world that are featured in the documentaries will serve as an inspiration and impetus for change.
Join us Thursday, 9 September 2021 3-5 PM (CEST) for a conversation with the filmmakers and innovators of the field at Vienna International Centre, Board Room D (4th Floor of C Building) and Live here
With unprecedented access to its subject, Prison Circle is the first ever documentary from an independent documentarian to capture the inside of a Japanese prison. Focusing on four young male prisoners, convicted of crimes ranging from robbery to violent homicide, Prison Circle chronicles their 2-year soul-searching journey in Therapeutic Community, a first-of-its-kind program in a Japanese prison.
In a unique project, in order to understand the mental and social conditions of their behavior. Even after being released from prison, former prisoners are supported by psychologists and social workers. What is remarkable in the process: the prisoners learn to support each other and to open up toward the experiences of others. Prison Circle is a touching plea to consider the significance of social reintegration. Director: Kaori Sakagami
Prison Circle can be viewed on-demand from 7 to 11 September 2021 here. Viewers in Japan can find information on screenings in Theater here
Incarceration Nations: A Global Docuseries is a mixed-media series about global mass incarceration narrated entirely by those who have lived incarceration around the world, from England to El Salvador, Argentina to the USA, Brazil and Lebanon to South Africa and Sierra Leone. The ten episodes of Incarceration Nations expose an international crisis while also spotlighting solutions, showcasing the work of Incarceration Nations Network (INN) justice partners from one continent to another. Director: Dr. Baz Dreisinger
Episodes can be viewed on-demand from 7 to 11 September 2021 below
The Nefarious Plot: Introduction to Global Mass Incarceration - Mass incarceration is a global calamity. From England to El Salvador, Argentina to the USA, Brazil and Lebanon to South Africa and Sierra Leone, its harms and horrors of look strikingly similar. Incarceration Nations is the first docu-series to tell this border-crossing story. Narrated entirely by those who have lived incarceration around the world, the ten episodes of Incarceration Nations expose an international crisis while also spotlighting solutions, showcasing the work of INN justice partners from one continent to another. Ideal for classrooms, panel discussions, justice-related film screenings and more, INN-TV is a powerful education about one of the greatest human—and civil—rights catastrophes of our time.
Waiting... And Waiting... For Trial - Of the 11 million people in prison worldwide, 3 million of them are legally innocent: awaiting trial for months, years, sometimes decades behind bars. In this episode of Incarceration Nations, discover the nightmare that is tpretrial detention in the USA, South Africa, Nepal and Trinidad.
(In)Justice for Women - Globally speaking, women represent the fastest rising prison population. In this episode of Incarceration Nations, learn how incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women from Taiwan to Sierra Leone, Argentina and Chile to the USA, are battling starkly similar systems of (in)justice.
Families Behind Bars - When you incarcerate one person, you incarcerate an entire family--especially when that one person you lock up is a parent. In this episode of Incarceration Nations, learn about the global epidemic that is parental incarceration--and the critical work that organizations worldwide are doing to counter it--by hearing from those directly impacted in Argentina, the USA, Scotland and the UK.
Education Not Incarceration - Why education, not incarceration? In this episode of Incarceration Nations, those who've pursued education behind bars in Ghana, El Salvador, the USA, Chile and Italy share how education changed their lives in dramatic ways.
Smart on Drugs, Not War on Drugs - The global war on drugs is a colossal failure, incarcerating millions and decimating targeted communities: people of color and women worldwide. In this episode of Incarceration Nations, travel from Lebanon, Brazil, Bolivia, Australia, Taiwan, Ghana and Canada to Portugal, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and the USA to learn what the world would look like if we were Smart on Drugs instead of waging a disgraceful War on Drugs.
“Home”Coming - Around the world, coming home from prison means facing an obstacle course of challenges--undergirded by legal discrimination against formerly incarcerated people. In this episode of Incarceration Nations, hear from those who've lived the reentry process in South Africa, the USA, Australia and Northern Ireland.
Those Closest to the Problem… - Around the world, directly impacted justice leaders--many of whom have spent years in prison--are driving change in powerful ways. In this episode of Incarceration Nations, learn from formerly incarcerated activists in Mexico, Malawi, the USA and South Africa--all of whom are evidence that, as the mantra of JustLeadership USA goes, those closest to the problem are closest to the solution.
Correcting Correctional Centers - What would a prison that is so unlike prison as to be worthy of another name look like? This episode of Incarceration Nations answers this question by taking you on a virtual journey to radically innovative correctional centers that actually correct in Finland.
Heal Not Harm - "Hurt people hurt people," goes the saying. So what would it look like for global justice systems to stop cycles of hurt and harm in their tracks--instead of perpetuating them with prisons and punishment? And what do those who experience harm really need, anyway? In this episode of Incarceration Nations, hear from those impacted in Rwanda, the USA and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Over 100,000 felons are serving life sentences in the U.S. -- a number that has doubled in the last decade. Behind the hardened facades of convicts, whose heinous crimes seem to merit no clemency, lie a myriad of personal stories. This documentary explores the stories of lifers currently serving time in the California penal system and sheds light on the counselors, who facilitate the rehabilitation of these convicts, as they reveal their own criminal past.
Prisoners and former prisoners who appear in this documentary are all part of an in-prison rehabilitation program called AMITY, which has been attracting attention across the nation -- and abroad -- for its unique program where ex-offenders help lifers come to terms with their crime. It works. Because the program has been proven to effectively reduce re-offending among felons at an incredible rate. Director: Kaori Sakagami
Lifers: Reaching for Life Beyond the Walls can be viewed on-demand from 7 to 11 September 2021 here.