For the past week, PRI has delivered training on human rights in prison management for prison and corrections staff, in the beautiful Solomon Islands of the South Pacific. The training was organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat and attended by representatives from Australia and a number of island countries: Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. All came together to learn about international standards and good practice on human rights in the penal system, to share their experiences and challenges and identify action to follow up the training. There was a wealth of expertise and insight to be shared, and the discussions illustrated the complex nature of the role of prison management, where many conflicting priorities – particularly of security and support – must be balanced.
During the workshops, we heard about many good practices already in place, particularly in relation to reintegration and support for offenders. A culture of strong family ties and spiritual and religious beliefs contributes to a more supportive environment for people in conflict with the law than in many other countries. But the challenges presented by the geography of the region are great. The distance between islands, between prison facilities and between families and prisoners present many practical problems. For prison personnel, it is expensive to provide facilities for all areas, and for prisoners, there are real problems in maintaining contact with families over great distances. Limited means of transport and resources can mean that prisoners are not provided with transport back to their home, and in some areas it is hard to provide emergency services if someone is taken ill or dies.
Healthcare for prisoners, better facilities for juvenile offenders, training for staff and improvements to accommodation and security all emerged as priorities during the week. In the final session, action plans were prepared and participants enthusiastic to draw up concrete proposals to improve their own systems and implement the good practice shared.