PRI was one of the first criminal justice NGOs to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic hitting prisons and issued two briefing papers examining the human rights implications of measures take by prison authorities and criminal justice settings to stem the spread of the virus. Both papers issued recommendations for urgent response and longer-term systemic reform.
We also delivered practical support to prisons throughout the pandemic, working in Jordan, Algeria, Kazakhstan, Central African Republic and Uganda including the provision of personal protective equipment, training for prison staff on preventing the spread of the virus, development of public health information leaflets, development of communications channels for families of people in detention, and advocating for the release of people to reduce overcrowding and populations.
We were consulted by the OHCHR on a statement from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. The High Commissioner highlighted the dire need for urgent action to protect ‘catastrophic’ consequences for persons in detention, citing dangerous levels of overcrowding, unhygienic conditions and inadequate or non-existent health services. Notably she called for releases, following our recommendations among others.
We relaunched our Europe Programme in part thanks to being awarded a grant by the European Commission Directorate for Justice (DG Just) for a project on promoting alternatives to imprisonment across Europe with a particular focus on vulnerable and minority groups.
We marked the 10th Anniversary of the UN Bangkok Rules through a series of events and activities including a blog series. We published new analysis which showed an increase of over 100,000 (17 per cent) in the global female prison population with dramatic increases in many regions since the Bangkok Rules were adopted. PRI also coordinated a group of 12 UN and regional human rights experts, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to issue a call for governments across the world to fully implement the Rules. Over 80 civil society organisations also issued a Joint Call to Action, coordinated by PRI, calling for a reduction in the imprisonment of women and improved protection of their rights in criminal justice systems.