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.
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.
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.
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.
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 womenâ€™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.
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 PRIâ€™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.
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 menâ€™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.
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.
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.
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 nonâ€‘custodial measures wherever possible, in line with the Bangkok Rules (Rule 57).
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.
PRIâ€™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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 offendersâ€™ access to and experiences of restorative justice.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 womenâ€™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 Canadaâ€™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.
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