PRI's Bangkok Rules E-bulletin: June 2016
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Bangkok Rules E-Bulletin
Women in the Criminal Justice System
June 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. 
We welcome contributions to the e-bulletin and do let us know what you think by emailing 
What's in this issue?              - PRI at the UN
             - Work on the Bangkok Rules in East Africa
             - New reports and resources from PRI

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 the first time. For more information on the Rules see PRI's short guide on the Rules.

New report 'Women who kill in response to violence: how do criminal justice systems respond?'

PRI and Linklaters LLP have published a study that surveys nine jurisdictions to consider how legislation and the courts take into account a history of domestic violence in cases where women have killed their abusers.

The study investigates the relevance of a history of abuse - with a focus on battered woman syndrome and the slow burn reaction - both in assessing culpability and in determining sentencing in such cases.
Findings include:
  • There is no specific legislative basis for a history of abuse to be considered a defence or a mitigating factor in sentencing in the majority of jurisdictions reviewed.
  • Although the above is true, some jurisdictions regard a history of abuse as relevant to substantiate an existing defence, such as duress in New Jersey, US or provocation in India.
  • Courts are not equipped with the right guidance, or show a reluctance, to take victimisation consistently into account as a factor either in establishing culpability or in sentencing.
  • A small number of jurisdictions have amended criminal law legislation to introduce new defences specifically available to victims of abuse e.g. Queensland, Australia.
  • In many jurisdictions, existing defences - such as self-defence, insanity and provocation - have proved ill-adapted to the situation of women suffering from battered woman syndrome or the slow burn reaction.
Other news and resources on this issue


PRI at the UN
UNGASS on drugs, April 2016

PRI attended the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) in New York on 19-21 April, and spoke in UNGASS sessions about the disproportionately negative impact of drug policies on women. PRI also hosted a side-event together with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on ‘The Human rights impacts of drug policies’, which further explored the impacts of the ‘war on drugs’ on women.

The disproportionate impact that harsh drug policies have had on women was highlighted by many delegates at the UNGASS, including this Women's Declaration which PRI signed up to and in this speech by an Assistant Secretary-General at UN Women calling for the removal of barriers to women’s full and equal access to drug treatment in prisons. Read PRIs 10 point plan for reforming criminal justice responses to drugs below for more on the disproportionate impact of drug policies on women.

In the UNGASS Outcome Document adopted on 21 April Member States recognized the importance of including gender perspectives (and women) in all stages of the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of drug-related policies and programmes, recognising women’s specific needs and circumstances.The Outcome Document recommends explicitly the taking into account of the specific needs and vulnerabilities of women drug offenders when imprisoned, in line with the Bangkok Rules.
Read this expert blog for PRI by Pavel Bém, former Mayor of Prague and a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, evaluating the UNGASS Outcome Document.
UN Crime Commission, May 2016

From 23-27 May, the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice  took place in Vienna.  One side event, co-organised with the IDPC, Thailand and the Thailand Institute of Justice, focused on the treatment of women offenders and women prisoners in different regions and reflected on the importance of the UN Bangkok Rules.
Good practices presented at the event included: gender-sensitive alternatives to imprisonment in Kenya (read this blog by PRI's Policy Director, Andrea Huber, for more on this issue); reforms to address histories of abuse in cases where women have killed in response to domestic violence (see report above); and gender-specific responses to drug offences to minimise the disproportionate impact of drug policies on women.
Side-event on women in conflict with the law at the UN Human Rights Council

PRI is organising an event on human rights of women in conflict with the law at the Human Rights Council next week. It will take place on Wednesday 15 June at 10-11am in Room IV, Palais des Nations in Geneva.  The event is co-sponsored by the Quaker UN Office (QUNO) and the Permanent Missions of Canada and Denmark to the UN. 

The expert panel includes presentations by Dubravka Simonovic, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Maria Luisa Silva, Head of UNDP in Geneva and PRI’s Olivia Rope. A video message from the Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez will also feature. The topics to be covered include: the links between violence and imprisonment, how drug policies impact women, the discrimination faced by women who have killed their abusers following domestic abuse and gender aspects of torture and ill-treatment.

Joint statement to UN Human Rights Council on HIV/AIDS in prisons by PRI and Quaker UN Office (QUNO)

The Human Rights Council held a plenary session on 11 March which addressed human rights issues and the efforts to end the HIV/ADIS epidemic by 2030. PRI and the QUNO issued an oral statement highlighting the specific challenges HIV/AIDS poses in prisons, noting that where drug treatment programmes are available in prison they are often only available in men’s prisons or delivered in less advantageous conditions for women. 

Read also this new blog that discusses the urgent need to focus on eradicating the disproportionately high rates of HIV in prisons if the  UN sustainable development goal to eradicate HIV by 2030 is to be achieved.

Work on the Bangkok Rules in East Africa

Hosting the second exchange visit under the East Africa Criminal Justice Civil Society e-network

In February 2016, six NGOs from Uganda and Kenya participated in an exchange visit organised and hosted by the African Prisons Project (APP) in partnership with the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), which provided an opportunity for the NGOs and prison staff to share experiences and good practice on working with women offenders and how to implement the Bangkok Rules. Read FHRI's coverage of the event
PRI and partner organisation, Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) organised a workshop in Kampala, Uganda in March with 23 judges and members of the Judicial Studies Institute to discuss provisions regarding non-custodial measures for women in Uganda. Read a blog about the discussions here.

The workshop followed PRI/FHRI’s 2015 report, Who are women prisoners? Survey results from Uganda

For more on the Bangkok Rules in Africa, read this article Women and imprisonment in Africa: Reflections on the past and future
New reports and resources from PRI
PRI's e-course available in Chinese

Thanks to Dui Hua. a shorter off-line version of PRI's e-course, Women in detention: putting the UN Bangkok Rules into practice, is available in Chinese (pdf). The file covers three of the modules, focusing on non-custodial alternatives for women.
Ten-point plan on reforming criminal justice responses to drugs

PRI has published with the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), a 10-point plan reforming criminal justice responses to drugs. It recognises the gender disparities in the ‘war on drugs’, recommending that states take into account the backgrounds of women in sentencing and implement the Bangkok Rules to ensure equal access with men to healthcare provisions in prison.

This is now available in English and Spanish.
Ten-point plan on reducing pre-trial detention

PRI has produced a 10-point-plan to assist countries to reform their legislation, policy and practice in relation to pre-trial justice. It recommends that special efforts should be made to reduce pre-trial detention of women by applying non‑custodial measures wherever possible, in line with the Bangkok Rules (Rule 57).
Global Prison Trends 2016

PRI has launched the second annual report in the Global Prison Trends series. The report includes a section on women, providing an overview of the types of crimes committed by women and the characteristics of women prisoners. It recommends a gender sensitive approach in areas such as nutrition and prison design taking into account the distinct needs and vulnerabilities of women prisoners. The Special Focus section on prison staff recommends special training for staff working with women.

New blogs

Forging new paths for women offenders in Kenya

PRI’s Policy Director, Andrea Huber, describes how a pilot research project in Kenya is paving the way for community service and probation orders that are more sensitive to the needs of women offenders.
Effects of incarceration of child-rearing parents − a brief look at some aspects

PRI Board Member and member of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, Justice Imman Ali, outlines the problems facing women prisoners and children in Bangladeshi prisons and calls for the best interests of the child to be prioritised.
The Women’s Risk Needs Assessment: Putting Gender at the Forefront of Actuarial Risk Assessment

This blog by Breanna Boppre and Emily Salisbury of the University of Nevada summarises the process behind the creation of a set of gender-responsive risk and needs assessment tools to use with women offenders - known as the Women's Risk Need Assessment (WRNA) - and argues for its effectiveness in classifying women offenders for supervision levels and treatment programmes.
The UN Bangkok Rules for women offenders and prisoners and their application in the UK

Sofia Gullberg of Women in Prison explores the background to the Bangkok rules and their impact in the UK. She praises the use of a women-specific expectations document based on the Bangkok Rules by the independent monitoring body for prisons, but notes the need for a greater range of community sentencing alternatives in place of custodial sentencing.
UN Special Rapporteur on torture: international anti-torture framework must have gendered lens

In a report of the  UN Special Rapporteur on torture delivered at the 31st regular session of the Human Rights Council, Juan E. Méndez advocated for the gender-inclusive application of the UN Convention Against Torture. He noted many issues woman face in prisons including violence from prison staff and illegal and degrading body searches. Notable recommendations of the report include the full application of the Bangkok Rules and the use of pre-trial detention only as a last resort in accordance with the UN Tokyo Rules.

IDPC produces Drug Policy Guide

The International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), of which PRI is a member, has produced the third edition of its Drug Policy Guide, which brings together global evidence, best practice and experiences to provide expert analysis across the spectrum of drug policy. It highlights throughout the need for gender sensitive approaches to drugs in criminal justice, which recognise the specific needs and characteristics of women.
Two reports from Human Rights Watch

A report has found that women prisoners in France suffering from psychosocial disabilities are discriminated against through less freedom of movement and less access both to activities and to mental health care than male prisoners.
Another report from Human Rights Watch details the abuses that transgender women suffer in US immigration detention facilities and insufficient efforts by government to address them.

Making restorative justice work for women offenders
A new report from the UK-based Restorative Justice Council sets out a series of recommendations for practitioners and policy-makers on how to improve female offenders’ access to and experiences of restorative justice.
Meeting the needs of young women in custody

Transition to Adulthood (T2A) has published a report on meeting the needs of young adult women in custody in the UK. This report recognises a number of provisions in the Bangkok Rules of particular relevance to young women.

See also this earlier T2A report on the toxic mix of fear and boredom that young women in prison in the UK experience and the failure of prison authorities to recognise young women as a distinct group with particular needs.
Women's experiences of re-offending and rehabilitation

This report from the New Zealand Department of Corrections follows a group of women who had served sentences and received rehabilitation, but then went on to re-offend. The report presents what women thought were important factors behind their re-offending and how approaches to rehabilitation could be improved.
Disadvantaged women offenders in Washington DC

A report from the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs  has found that women offenders from 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.
Across Asia, we need to give the women incarcerated by the ‘war on drugs’ a voice

This article discusses the lack of gender and human rights perspectives in national drug laws in south-east Asia and the high proportion of women offenders convicted of drug-related crimes. It reviews the gendered language of international drug policy 
through the Commission on Narcotic Drugs to the April 2016 UNGASS Outcome Document

Jail Tip Sheets on Justice Involved Women

The National Resource Centre on Justice Involved Women in the US has produced a series of eight Jail Tip Sheets to facilitate gender-informed approaches with women in correctional facilities.
Understanding Detention E-learning Course

The International Committee of the Red Cross has published an online course that provides users with a basic understanding of what happens when people are deprived of their liberty. It features a section on the specific risks and vulnerabilities women face in detention.

It is available in English, French and Spanish.
Training Manual: A Gender Perspective in CSDP

The Folke Bernadotte Academy has produced a training manual on the application of gender concepts into the work of the European Union's Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). It features a case study and task on gendered approaches to correctional facilities and notes the specific needs and characteristics of women in this area.
Handbook on the Management of High-Risk Prisoners
UNODC has produced a handbook to inform procedure relating to the management of high-risk prisoners. It uses the Bangkok Rules throughout to offer guidance on such issues as prisoner classification, visitation rights and discipline.
Bangkok Rules training in Thailand
The Thailand Institute of Justice is accepting applications for a training programme on the Management of Women Prisoners for Senior Correctional Staff in the ASEAN Region from 10-19 August in Bangkok.
The training will aim to assist participants in designing a framework for implementing the Bangkok Rules and other international standards. PRI will be contributing this training.

Guidelines issued to safeguard rights of pregnant Canadian women and their children
Authorities in British Columbia, Canada, have published a set of guidelines to govern the implementation of Mother-Child Units in provincial prisons.
The guidelines cover a wide range of child bearing and child rearing issues and press authorities to consider alternatives to prison for women offenders, recommending community-based programmes as a better solution.
For more on alternative sentencing, listen to this BBC radio interview that discusses the future of UK women’s prisons, and the progress being made towards greater use of alternative sentencing.

Other resources from Canada

Listen to this radio interview that discusses the disproportionately high number of indigenous women in Canada’s Prisons.

Listen to this interview with Canada's Prison Ombudsman that further criticises the former government's tough-on-crime legislation, arguing its profound and negative effect on prison populations.
More on detained pregnant women and mothers

UK plans to place a 72-hour time limit on the detention of pregnant women
Reducing women’s imprisonment: sentencing of mothers
The children of parents in prison: who cares?
Transforming the lives of women in trouble
Australia: Female prisoners to be managed under gender specific standards
Ecuador: An Ecuadorian prison radio show is changing women’s lives
Mexico: 13000 women jailed in Mexico mostly for carrying weed
Mexico: Senate approves prison reforms that establish gender-specific rights for incarcerated women
Scotland: Closure of only all-female prison to begin this summer
Saudi Arabia: 250 Saudi women complete vocational training
South Africa: SA among the leading countries in respect of women incarceration
Uganda: Prison farms updated in face of rights concerns
UK: New Scottish women's prisons to resemble flats
UK: New mother killed herself prison shortly after taken off suicide watch
UK: Female prisoners are more badly behaved than male ones
UK: Staffordshire women's prison keeps inmates safe, says report
US: Lawsuit alleges Georgia prison supervisor raped women inmates
US: Abuse alleged at Oklahoma halfway house for women
US: Interim Corrections Chief: Parts of prison system ‘not even in the 20th century’
US: Meet the former lawyer and inmate fighting for America’s incarcerated women  
Do you have new publications or resources to share on women and criminal justice?

We encourage you to send us any new materials, feedback, news items, blogs, etc... to share with this network of people interested in women and the criminal justice system. Please send to:

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