Dear Mr. Kawahara,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am pleased to join you today to discuss the challenges related to the treatment of offenders, prison management and reducing reoffending.
Regardless of how severe the crime or how far they have fallen in the criminal justice system, offenders are first and foremost human beings and must always be treated as such.
Because how we treat prisoners reflects who we are as societies and the values we espouse.
And because humane treatment and paths to redemption are key to breaking cycles of crime and violence.
That is why UN Standards and Norms related to prison and offender management are so crucial.
The Nelson Mandela Rules, the Bangkok Rules and the Tokyo Rules provide universal benchmarks for guaranteeing the rights and dignity of prisoners, for promoting rehabilitation and for reducing the risk of reoffending.
I am pleased that many Member States continue to recognize the UN Standards and Norms as a blueprint for humane and effective prison and offender management and in national reform efforts.
Yet, severe challenges persist, and prison conditions are far below what is needed in too many countries around the world, due to neglect, lack of resources, and overcrowding.
In 100 countries that UNODC has collected data on, almost half were operating prisons at over 100 per cent of their intended capacity between 2014 to 2019. When overcrowding reaches crisis levels, this may rise to over 150 or even 200 per cent of actual capacity.
Overburdened and under-resourced, prison systems are buckling under the weight of a global prison population of over 11 million, struggling to provide even the most basic services such as access to adequate nutrition, hygiene and healthcare.
Women prisoners face gender-specific needs and risks in prisons that require tailored management approaches, especially pregnant women and those with children.
Meanwhile, around one in three people globally are imprisoned pending trial, many of whom come from vulnerable and disadvantaged communities without the resources to defend themselves in court.
Once released, former prisoners often face additional challenges, such as socio-economic exclusion due to the stigma associated with their prior incarceration, leaving them vulnerable to a cycle of poverty, further marginalization, criminality and re-imprisonment.
UNODC research in 2022 found that reoffending rates within two years of release can be as high as 60 per cent.
We must not allow criminal justice systems to become conveyor belts of injustice.
UNODC is committed to breaking the cycle of re-offending and supporting human rights-based approaches to prison management.
At the 30th session of the CCPCJ two years ago, I was proud to launch the UN System Common Position on Incarceration, together with the UN Division for Peace Operations and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which aims at reducing Member States’ overreliance on incarceration and advancing the social reintegration of offenders.
Last year, UNODC provided 43 countries with tailored technical assistance and support, including investment in more rehabilitative approaches to prison and community-based offender management.
In Indonesia, Kazakhstan and Sri Lanka, we provided training on sustainable farming, engineering, and entrepreneurship, to give prisoners the knowledge and skills to start or expand their own business as a means of creating a sustainable livelihood once they are released from prison.
In the Philippines, we launched an innovative project entitled “Read your way out”, which invests in prison libraries and provides learning opportunities for personal development, allowing prisoners to reduce their sentences by studying and learning new skills.
Such programmes require our concerted efforts.
Governments, civil society, the private sector, and the general public must join forces to ensure an effective, evidence-based, and rehabilitative approach to prison and offender management.
Together, we can provide prisoners with an alternative path and a second chance in life.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to commend the Government of Japan’s efforts, following the 14th Kyoto Crime Congress in 2021, to develop new Model Strategies on Reducing Reoffending.
These new standards will provide Member States with tailored tools to address the root causes of crime and reduce reoffending while addressing the needs of marginalized populations through a people-centred lens.
I am pleased that you have presented a resolution on reducing reoffending through rehabilitation at this year’s session of the CCPCJ and, if adopted, you can count on UNODC’s full support in its implementation.
I am grateful for Japan’s leadership in fostering international cooperation on criminal justice, and I look forward to continuing our dialogue at the upcoming ASEAN Special Meeting of Justice Ministers in Tokyo in July.
Let us continue to work together to ensure that offenders are treated with dignity and respect.