International Prison Law and Standards
Panopticon Consulting will use its knowledge and experience, gained during previous projects, to tailor our work to ensure that your specific outputs are delivered on time and within budget and that the project's desired outcomes are achieved. Please contact us to discuss your specific requirements.
In most jurisdictions, the prison regulatory framework consists primarily of a Law, a set of Rules (Regulations), and detailed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). The Prison Law should set out the overarching framework and principles for the operation of the prison system. Prison Rules can perform a number of functions, depending on the jurisdiction. They can: set out the policy for subjects not covered in Prison Law; clarify and resolve ambiguity in the Prison Law; and provide additional detail on subjects included in the in the Prison Law. Each jurisdiction should decide, as a matter of policy, what should be included in the Rules and what should be left to SOPs. Rules tend to focus on the 'what' should be done, while SOPs focus on the detailed 'how' things should be done.
Panopticon Consulting supports jurisdictions to review, amend, re-write or write their prison regulatory framework. We base our work on international case law which recognises four aims as legitimate objectives for the imposition of prison sentences: retribution; deterrence; incapacitation; and social rehabilitation or reintegration. The balance between the elements varies between jurisdictions, but international law gives full recognition to prisoners' rights during the time that they are incarcerated. It has become an internationally recognised principle that people are sent to prison as a punishment, not for punishment. This means that no additional pains may be imposed on the prisoner, and that only a minimal interference with the fundamental rights and freedoms of the prisoner is legitimate.
A number of international instruments have a direct impact on the manner in which prisoners should be treated and managed. Panopticon Consulting particularly seeks to embed the key provisions of the following instruments in its work on prison regulatory frameworks:
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) (1966)
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (1966)
- Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment(CAT)(1984)
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979)
- Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
The prohibition against torture in international human rights law allows for no exceptions or derogations and is a general binding principle, jus cogens, which applies to states irrespective of whether they have ratified a particular treaty. The ICCPR is particularly important in the prison context as it goes further - prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment - and sets general standards for the treatment of prisoners. Its two key provisions should run through all penal regulation:
"all persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person" Article 10(1).
"the penitentiary system shall comprise the treatment of prisoners, the essential aim of which shall be their reformation and social rehabilitation" Article 10(3).
These binding international instruments deal with imprisonment only in general terms. The propositions contained therein are very general and do not give a clear idea of what a human rights-driven prison system should look like. Panopticon Consulting uses the provisions in the more prison-specific international standards, norms and rules set out below to shape its detailed work on Prison Acts, Rules (Regulations) and Standard Operating Procedures:
- UN Standard Minimum Rules for The Treatment Of Prisoners (1955)
- UN Body of Principles For The Protection Of All Persons Under Any Form Of Detention Or Imprisonment (1988)
- UN Basic Principles for The Treatment Of Prisoners (1990)
- UN Rules For the Treatment Of Women Prisoners And Non-Custodial Measures For Women Offenders (The Bangkok Rules) (2010)
- UN Rules for The Protection Of Juveniles Deprived Of Their Liberty (1990)
- UN Guidelines For The Prevention Of Juvenile Delinquency (The Riyadh Guidelines) (1990)
- UN Standard Minimum Rules for The Administration Of Juvenile Justice (The Beijing Rules) (1985)
- United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Non-Custodial Measures (The Tokyo Rules) (1990)