In 2003, the U.S. passed a law called the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which for the first time mandated the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) – an arm of the Department of Justice – to conduct anonymous surveys of prisoners about sexual abuse.
These surveys have confirmed what reform advocates had long known – that abuse is widespread in many prisons – but, also and significantly, that in some prisons it is not. This blog looks at the impact of the PREA, the practices and management issues that may make abuse more likely and the policy and culture change needed to eliminate it.
On World Day against the Death Penalty on 10 October UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and world leaders described the death penalty as a cruel and inhumane practice.
The focus of this year's World Day against the Death Penalty was the retention of the death penalty for terrorism-related offences. "It has no place in the 21st century,” Mr. Ban stressed in his message. “To be legitimate and effective, counter-terror measures, like all security operations, must be anchored in respect for human rights and the rule of law,” he added.
Manfred Nowak has been appointed to lead the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty. The study will pursue a broad scope and address deprivation of liberty in different forms, including children involved in criminal justice systems, children in need of protection, children with physical or mental disabilities, children exposed to drug abuse, children detained with their parents, children in immigration detention, and those suspected of threats to national security.
PRI is a member of the NGO Panel Steering group working on this issue. For more information about the campaign for a global study on children deprived of liberty see PRI's website or the campaign website.
Revised EU rules to prevent trade in goods and services that may contribute to torture or execution have been approved by the European Parliament. In negotiations with member states on previous drafts, the European Parliament inserted a ban on the marketing and transit of equipment used for cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of people in third countries. See more on this issue from the Omega Research Foundation.
The guide is primarily intended to assist lawmakers in drafting specific anti-torture legislation or in revising existing domestic laws. It is also useful for actors from civil society or international and regional organisations advocating for the adoption of a legal framework on torture at the national level. The guide is also available in English, French and Portuguese.
PRI attends the high level panel discussion organised by the Special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa
The panel discussion was held on 25 October 2016, during the 59th Ordinary Session of the Commission. The theme of the event was the realities of the work of female prisons and prison officers and its impact on the promotion and protection of women's rights in Africa.
Josephine Kankunda from PRI's Africa office addressed the panel on the issue of penal reform in Africa and its impact on the rights of women.
The IACHR report condemns the complicity of the media and the judiciary in the irregular detention of citizens, as well as highlighting prison conditions which violate international human rights standards.
UN Special Rapporteur, Rhona Smith, highlighted chronic overcrowding in the two main prisons of Cambodia, and recommended increasing the use of non-custodial sentencing and reducing reliance on provisional detention as two ways to alleviate overcrowding.
Of all prisoners released from segregation in the 2015-16 fiscal year, 247 had spent in excess of 120 days in isolation, down from 498 the year before. In August 2016, federal prisons held an approximate daily average of 370 inmates in solitary confinement out of a total prison population of around 15,000. The average norm of previous decades was typically 700 to 800 inmates, a rate of segregation Federal Prisons Ombudsman Howard Sapers had called “out of control".
The Nelson Mandela Rules now stipulate that solitary confinement should only be used in exceptional cases, as a last resort, for as short a time as possible, after authorisation by a competent authority, and subject to independent review. Indefinite and prolonged solitary confinement (of more than 15 days) is prohibited entirely.
The publication states that although girls join gangs for many of the same reasons boys do, there are some gender differences; for example, girls — particularly in abusive families — are more likely than boys to regard a gang as a surrogate family.
PRI delivers "Training of Trainers" workshop for 25 prison and probation staff in Kenya
A new agreement by the EU on legal aid requires member states to provide legal aid to criminal suspects and accused persons without delay, as a minimum prior to police questioning, investigation and evidence-gathering. The new directive establishes practical rules for how legal aid systems should operate, requiring an effective and competent legal aid authority that must make decisions diligently, respect the rights of the defence and require member states to provide adequate funding and training of legal aid decision makers and lawyers.
The Court held in a case against Croatia that the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment had been violated when a prisoner had been held in a cell with less than 3 sq. m of personal space in Bjelovar Prison.
Hungary: In another ‘right to hope’ case concerning life without parole, the Court held that Hungary’s 2015 legislation regarding the review of whole life sentences violates the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment. See this expert blogwritten for PRI by Dirk van Zyl Smit on life imprisonment and the 'right to hope'.
Russia: In this case the Court held that the rights of a Bolotnaya protestor had been breached by unjustified pre-trial detention, degrading conditions, his containment in glass cabins during trial, and a disproportionate criminal sanction. Yaroslav Belousov v. Russia