Bangkok Rules E-Bulletin Women in the Criminal Justice System October 2016
Welcome to Penal Reform International's quarterly Bangkok Rules E-Bulletin, a round-up of news and developments from PRI and others around the world on women in detention, and the implementation of the UN Bangkok Rules. The views expressed in the news items are not necessarily those of PRI.
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WHAT ARE THE BANGKOK RULES?
The Bangkok Rules are a set of standards adopted by the UN General Assembly on 21 December 2010, which supplement existing standards for the treatment of prisoners by addressing the specific needs of women in the criminal justice system. For more information on the Rules see PRI's short guide on the Rules.
On 3 October, PRI, together with the Kenya Probation and Aftercare Service launched a new report and short film in Nairobi following pioneering research on alternatives to prison for women.
Read the press release here, which notes that the pilot project provides useful lessons on implementing alternatives for women offenders in the African region and internationally.
The report examines the context in which women serve community sanctions (Community Service Orders and Probation Orders) in Kenya and their interactions and experiences of it.
Community sanctions are often a much better option for women than a prison sentence, but like many other aspects of criminal justice systems, the system is usually set up with male offenders in mind, paying little attention to the reality of women’s lives.
This report identifies challenges women face (how do they balance serving the Order with childcare commitments and their casual jobs, for example: Are their health problems taken into account when allocating work? Do they feel safe?) and what they need to maximise their chances of successfully completing the Order, and makes recommendations for improving the gender-sensitivity of the community sanctions system.
This report was produced as the first step of a project to develop a gender-sensitive approach to the delivery of community sanctions in Kenya, in line with the UN Bangkok Rules and was funded by the Thailand Institute of Justice.
Update! Kenya's correctional services principal secretary announced this week that Kenya would take steps to decongest prisons, citing in particular offences of illegal brewing and illegal collection of firewood which penalise the poor, and especially women, as highlighted in PRI's report.
Coming soon: A briefing will be published soon which identifies lessons and recommendations for other countries to better implement the Bangkok Rules on non-custodial measures and sanctions, drawing on this research report from Kenya.
Research and advocacy on rights of women in the criminal justice system in Georgia
PRI is currently implementing a project to improve the rights of women in the criminal justice system of Georgia. The first step of the project entailed research to identify the shortcomings in the policy and legislative frameworks with regards to gender-specific aspects. Research findings established that while some governmental policy documents included provisions about gender-specific approaches, there are no clear guidelines as to how they should be implemented in practice or monitored. Furthermore, legislation fails to stipulate what gender-specific factors are to be considered in decision-making processes, and the caretaking responsibilities of women or any history of victimisation – commonly experienced by women offenders - are often disregarded in responses by the criminal justice system.
PRI delivers Training of Trainers workshop for 25 prison and probation staff in Kenya
On 27-29 September a “Training of Trainers” workshop for correctional staff on the UN Bangkok Rules was delivered by PRI. The 6 modules focused on all aspects of the Bangkok Rules, drawing on experience of corrections in Kenya (prison and probation) and included discussion of the new research on non-custodial sanctions for women (see above). The workshop was delivered under a project with the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
Maria Eva Dorigo, an independent researcher and expert on gender-specific treatment and programmes for women prisoners, has written a blog about the adoption by Peru of a protocol for the treatment of women in prison based on the UN Bangkok Rules
Dr Marian Liebmann, international expert and consultant on restorative justice, explores the arguments for and against restorative justice for domestic violence cases, concluding that it can in some circumstances serve as an alternative to court if stringent preconditions are met.
This report by the UN Working Group on discrimination against women notes the specific physical and mental health issues facing women deprived of their liberty, unequal access to hygiene and health services and the ongoing use of prohibited practices such as shackling during labour.
The report was presented to the Human Rights Council at its 32nd session in June.
PRI and the Quaker UN Office delivered a joint oral statement at the Annual Day of Discussion on Women’s Rights at the 32nd Regular Session of the Human Rights Council on 16 June 2016. The oral statement highlighted the fact that violence plays a significant role in the pathways to prison for many women and exacerbates the negative impact of detention and social exclusion post-imprisonment. For Indigenous women this is compounded by intersectional discrimination based on race and gender.
A summary report of discussions at a side event organised at the 32nd Human Rights Council on the various human rights issues faced by women in conflict with the law. The expert panel included representatives of member states, UN bodies and Penal Reform International.
A meta-analysis published this year in the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior supports recent research that girls and women respond well to gender-informed interventions leading to decreased involvement in the criminal justice system.
This article by the US National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women reflects on a project to implement a pre-trial risk assessment process for women (Inventory of Need Screening Tool) in Dutchess County New York. It highlights how gender neutral tools may miss critical gender specific factors which, if recognised, can achieve more successful outcomes for women and discusses the lessons learned in Dutchess County.
The report sets out what is known about women in jail in order to begin to include them within the reform process. It found that the experiences women have in jail can exacerbate the problems that contributed to their incarceration in the first place - trauma, mental illness, single-parenthood, and poverty - and that more research is needed in order to understand what interventions work to set women on a better path. A video is available on the report's findings, together with a factsheet.
A report from the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs has found that women offenders from Washington DC are disadvantaged as a result of their gender. The report found inadequate provision of work programmes and healthcare for women and that the small number of female correctional facilities in the state made maintaining family contact difficult.
The report confirms that there are only 600 beds in the prison, which currently houses more than 2,000 prisoners. There is insufficient food and prisoners have been the victims of all forms of torture, including rape.
UK reports on women offenders post-release and serving community sanctions
The Guidance Document and Index of Implementation on the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Sanctions for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules), co-published with the Thailand Institute of Justice as part of PRI’s Toolbox on the UN Bangkok Rules.
Both documents are designed to assist stakeholders with working towards implementation of the Bangkok Rules, other international standards and best practices.
The results of surveys with women prisoners in seven countries in four regions, these reports contribute to the very limited evidence base on the background and characteristics of women offenders and are designed to support the development of effective law, policy and practice to support the gender-sensitive treatment of women prisoners.
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