On 3 October, PRI, together with 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, it 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 Rulesand was funded by the Thailand Institute for 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.
Last month, the US Department of Justice announced that it would phase out, with a view to ending, its use of private prisons. In this expert blog, David Fathi, Director of theAmerican Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project and PRI Board Member, gives his predictions for the future involvement of private companies in US corrections.
Initial guidance on the new Nelson Mandela Rules, based on the deliberations of a meeting of experts organised by Penal Reform International and Essex University Human Rights Centre earlier this year, is now available on our website. A full paper, representing guidance discussed in six Working Groups, will be published later this year.
PRI delivered this statement to the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting on 27 September 2016 regarding the management of extremist offenders in prison and the risk of radicalisation, emphasising the importance of a human-rights based approach. Read this expert blog on the subject.
The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva has appointed Mr Nils Melzer as the next UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Mr Melzer will take over from current mandate holder Juan E. Méndez on 1 November. Read an interview by the Association for the Prevention of Torture with Mr Melzer.
Prison expert, Isabel Hight, discusses the challenges of building prisons that meet humanitarian standards in countries where large-scale imprisonment is seen as a Western concept. She raises the question: what makes a good prison and why is it important to get the design right. She is clear that design is crucial to creating an environment in which prisoners can live and not become institutionalised. Read more about architecture and prisons in these two blogs:
PRI's short illustrated guide to the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Female Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the ‘Bangkok Rules’) is now available in French. It covers:
the profile of women prisoners and why international standards were needed
The Government Commission for Legislative Drafting Activities has approved bills aimed to improve the status of convicted mothers in Russian prisons, by making the following changes:
the setting aside of prison sentences for expectant mothers, women and single fathers with children under 14 years not only at the stage of sentence execution but also at the time of delivering judgment
women and single fathers with children under 14 years or a disabled child will gain the right to four meetings with their children per year outside the prison grounds
the transfer of convicted pregnant women will only be allowed if there is a medical report and the woman is accompanied by a healthcare worker
to allow some prisoners to live and work outside prison under surveillance of its administration for six months before the end of the prison term
PRI is a member of the official working group on this issue.
The report says that the failure to solve a chronic shortage of suitable housing options for women who offend leads to more crime, more victims and more unnecessary and expensive imprisonment. The briefing presents the evidence and makes recommendations for change.
Also see the thematic report published by the UK HM Inspectorate of Probation on the provision and quality of services in the community for women offenders.
Alternative sentences result in a “widening of the net” according to Catherine Heard of the Institute for Criminal Policy Research. Rather than serving as an alternative to prison, such sentences are often applied as additional punishments—often to deal with newly criminalised offences, such as breaking welfare rules or anti-social behaviour. Ms Heard says that non-prison sentences are increasingly designed to control and monitor offenders rather than reform them.
On 10 October, the 14th World Day against the Death Penalty will be used by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty to highlight and raise awareness of the use of the death penalty for terrorism-related offences, and to reduce its use.
Following a visit to Kazakhstan by the UN Sub-Committee on the Prevention of Torture, the Sub-Committee noted that “Kazakhstan has significantly reduced the number of people deprived of their liberty and improved conditions of detention, but the prison system continues to overemphasize restrictions and punishment, rather than reintegration and rehabilitation” Read their statement.
More than 400 cases of torture have been reported in prisons across Tunisia according to the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH) in the period from October 2013 to October 2015. However, the alleged torture cases by the Tunisian regime were said to be "not systematic" in nature.
The report estimates that 17,723 people died in custody across Syria between March 2011, when the uprising against President Bashar Assad began, and December 2015 - equivalent to about 10 people each day or more than 300 a month. According to the report, new detainees are subjected to "security checks" that often involve women being sexually assaulted by male guards.
Between 13 and 15 September, PRI’s Central Asia office hosted an International Symposium on the prevention of violence against children in closed institutions in Central Asia in Astana, Kazakhstan.
The Symposium marked the end of a three-year project, funded by the European Union and implemented by PRI with national partners in the three countries, which aimed to achieve the progressive elimination of violence against children in closed institutions.
This project has had considerable success in bringing about reforms to provide better protection for children in the region. More about the project and its results can be found in the mid-term evaluation. A final evaluation will be published soon.
The conference will take place in Auckland, New Zealand on 20-23 March 2017. It will bring together those championing the rights of children with parents in prison from across the world - particularly non-European countries. Details are here.