Situation and trends in the penitentiary field in the world in 2018

The report Global Prison Trends 2018 is the fourth edition of an annual study that has been elaborated with the support of the Thailand Institute of Justice and the Penal Reform International(PRI).

Penal Reform International is a non-governmental and independent organisation that develops and promotes effective and proportionate responses to criminal justice around the world.

For example, the PRI defends the use of measures and sanctions without deprivation of liberty, a method that has expanded over recent years. This way, with alternative measures to prison, the overcrowding of centres can be reduced, especially in the case of sentences for non-violent acts or drug-related low-level offences.

For another year, the report explains that the prison situation in the world is, in general, very bad because of the degradation of conditions and the growing number of people in prison. It is for this reason that a list of recommendations has been elaborated for states and their penitentiary policies:

  • States should introduce new legislation to reduce prison rates, focussing on priorities related to measures to prevent crime, alternatives to prison and rehabilitation.
  • It is necessary to implement strategies to address the overpopulation of prisons by extending the use of alternatives to prison and fight for the reduction of poverty and inequality.
  • States should abide by, respect and the protect human rights and the procedural safeguards of those detained. This way, mistreatment and torture would be avoided.
  • Preventive prison should only be used as a last resort, and should bear in mind thepresumption of innocence and the principles of need and proportionality.
  • Monetary bale policies should be revised to ensure that people with limited resources are not discriminated against.
  • Sentencing should be guided by international law, including the UN agreements of Tokyo and Bangkok.
  • States should reduce the use of the life sentence. Life sentences without the option of parole should be abolished.
  • The living conditions of prisoners sentenced must correspond to the norms established by the so-called “Rules” of Nelson Mandela.
  • States that still apply the death penalty should move to abolish it, establishing a moratorium as a first step towards its extinction.
  • States should revise their policies related to drugs. It is necessary to decriminalise minor offences and apply proportional sentences.
  • The imprisoning of children should be a last resort, and the death penalty and life sentences should be prohibited in the case of minors.
  • States should adopt justice and protection policies and systems for children to address violence and mistreatment.
  • The UN Bangkok norms must provide guidance for states in penal justice reform in order to guarantee that systems meet the needs of imprisoned women.
  • The sentencing of women should bear in mind any victimisation, child-care responsibilities and the context of the criminal conduct, potentiating reclusion-free sanctions.


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