At any given time in the world, 11.5 million people spend their days behind bars, often pending trial and in overcrowded cells. Prisons operating above their occupancy limits are difficult to manage. In many countries, this translates into corrections systems where international human rights standards and respect for the rule of law are rarely implemented.
To address the situation and build effective and rights-abiding penal systems, the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) is partnering with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) to upgrade the professional skills of prison managers through human rights-based corrections-management training.
Through the project, Supporting Global Professionalization of Corrections Management Training in line with International Human Rights Standards, IDLO is designing a curriculum to be rolled out by INL in its international corrections training programmes around the world. The training builds on international human rights standards – particularly the Mandela Rules and Bangkok Rules as two of the key standards it will seek to operationalize – and uses advanced adult learning methodologies.
IDLO has established an International Advisory Group (IAG) with government, institutional, and civil society representatives from Africa, Europe, Latin America, North America, and Southeast Asia, as well as with senior representatives from international organizations, all specialized in penal reform. The IAG will provide overall thought leadership and strategic direction for the design of training materials.
“The IAG brings together some of the finest experts in the world committed to advancing correctional excellence,” says INL Deputy Assistant Secretary, Tobin Bradley. “Their ground-breaking work has the potential to inform the standard for successful reintegration policies and programs globally. That means better outcomes for individuals, communities, and return on government investments.”
Earlier in 2022, IDLO organized meetings with the IAG to build consensus around priority training areas of dynamic security and soft skills. They also identified pressing operational gaps related to prisoners in situations of vulnerability and those with special needs.
Meeting participants noted that adopting a human rights approach to prison management leads to better and fairer decision-making in day-to-day operations. It increases the safety and security of both prisoners and prison staff, and contributes to institutional and cultural change in prison management. Furthermore, the impacts of employing such an approach reach far beyond prison systems; as the IDLO Director of Programmes, Ted Hill, notes: “Corrections officers are on the front line in the penal system, and investing in their professional development has a positive impact on prisoners and society at large.”
Members of the IAG also recommended focussing on the operational applicability of international norms and standards, making the learning experience easily accessible, adaptable and, most importantly, relevant to local contexts.
* IAG members include: Sandra Fernández, Academic Director of the Regional Penitentiary Academy (the Dominican Republic); Olivia Rope, Executive Director of Penal Reform International; Miriam Wachira, Country Director of Justice Defenders in Kenya; Dean Williams, Executive Director of Colorado Department of Corrections; and Ivan Zinger, Correctional Investigator of Canada, among others.