Alternatives To Imprisonment

One of the main contributing factors behind overcrowding in prisons is the excessive use of both pre-trial detention and imprisonment in many countries. Overcrowding and backlogs in processing pre-trial detention cases can lead to many other challenges including recidivism. Despite the recognition that imprisonment alone is insufficient to meet the objectives of criminal sanctions, and the existence of detailed guidance from relevant international law and standards that imprisonment should be considered a last resort, many countries rely heavily on imprisonment as the default, or the only response to crime.


We are promoting the use of non-custodial measures in selected countries in the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia. We support Member States to address common gaps and obstacles for using non-custodial alternatives to pre-trial detention and imprisonment. This includes addressing particular challenges that may exist in relation to serious crimes, such as terrorism-related offences.
The project aims to benefit legislators and policymakers as well as national criminal justice practitioners. Prosecutors, legal aid providers, and prison professionals are increasingly confronted with challenging caseloads and prison overcrowding, due to the increasing number of offenders in the criminal justice system, including on serious crimes charges such as terrorism-related offences. The project also aims to benefit alleged and convicted offenders, particularly those with specific needs, by averting violations to their fundamental rights and increasing opportunities for social reintegration.


UNODC has developed a series of tools and publications for Member States to support alternatives to imprisonment.
We have also specifically developed the Technical assistance handbook on appropriate use of non-custodial measures for terrorism-related offenses, published in English and Arabic in August 2021. 


Our work on alternatives to imprisonment is funded by the United States