We work as a catalyst for systemic change through a smart mix of advocacy and practical programmes for reform. Your support could contribute to projects as the following at a national, regional and international level:
Revising the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners: A case study
As well as conducting practical grassroots projects, PRI plays an important role in advocacy at an international level. One example of our long-term advocacy work is a four-year project, funded by DFID, to revise the 1957 UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. The Standard Minimum Rules are considered the main authoritative source on prison conditions, forming the basis of the prison rules of many nations. Therefore, it is vital that these rules are kept up-to-date and that they reflect current guidance and best practice on the treatment of prisoners.
In December 2010, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution asking the United Nations Crime Commission to set up a working group on how to review the Standard Minimum Rules. From 2011–2015, PRI lobbied for targeted yet substantive revisions that would modernise the rules and make them more human-rights orientated. PRI’s successful efforts led to the unanimous adoption of the revised ‘Mandela Rules’ in December 2015.
An evaluation by Annabel Jackson Associates Ltd details how PRI influenced the decision to take a ‘targeted changes’ approach, and looks at the selection of areas for review, the reasoning behind the revisions and the final amendments that were adopted. The evaluator conducted two surveys in 2012 and 2015, during which all 45 respondents described PRI as influential or very influential in the process of reviewing the Standard Minimum Rules. The evaluation concluded that PRI’s work was exceptional in its global impact, as was the skill and complexity of stakeholder involvement and the pivotal role played by PRI, a small-sized NGO. Read the evaluation here.
We’ve helped women offenders in Georgia reintegrate back into society
Stigma and discrimination towards those who have been in prison are still prevalent in Georgia, and unemployment is high – making it difficult for women to find jobs upon release. PRI works in partnership with four Georgian NGOs to help female offenders access support services that will help them reintegrate into their communities, such as legal aid, psychological counselling, medical services, vocational training, start-up grants for small businesses, and work opportunities. Legal aid and psychological counselling have proved pivotal in the rehabilitation process for some women, allowing them to overcome long-term problems such as obtaining custody of children or a lack of confidence due to the stigma faced by having been in prison. Skills training has had a therapeutic effect, helping women regain their status as carers for their families and providing structure to their daily routines in prison.
‘I lost my parents at a young age. After the release from prison…I stayed homeless. I became dependent on alcohol. Now I live in temporary shelter for former prisoners. With the assistance of PRI, I have been treated for overcoming alcoholism. My situation has improved. I studied the profession of a tailor and currently work in a social enterprise. This is the beginning of my new life.’
Former female prisoner
We provide tools to help probation officers adopt a gender-sensitive approach
The emotional, social and economic consequences of imprisonment experienced by women are acute and enduring and extend to their families – and particularly to their children. Non-custodial sanctions offer the potential to avoid imprisonment, but they have been almost exclusively created for men, and the differing needs and experience of women have largely been overlooked. PRI led a pioneering project in Kenya that explored ways of adopting a gender-sensitive approach to non-custodial sentences, such as community service and probation orders. As part of this project, PRI worked with the Kenya Probation and Aftercare Service to amend pre-sentence reports – produced by probation officers to inform magistrates of the background of an offender and recommend sentencing options such as community sanctions – so that they better reflect women’s realities and backgrounds. Probation officers received training on using the adapted tools and implementing a gender-sensitive approach to their work.
‘Before, I thought an offender is an offender, and it doesn’t matter if they are male or female. My thinking was there is no excuse for committing a crime. But after I have gotten a change of perception. Now I take a little more time to dig deeper and find out more and what really caused them to offend.’
A probation officer
We help reduce violence against children in closed institutions
Children in closed institutions across the world are vulnerable to violence, both from their peers and from staff. PRI’s three-year project in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan aimed to reduce incidents of violence against children in detention, as well as reduce the use of solitary confinement – which can have severe and adverse effects on mental health. In Kazakhstan, PRI was an active member of the Working Group on Reform of the Criminal Executive Code, providing technical assistance to the Group to help draft new legislation. This resulted in the maximum period of solitary confinement for children being reduced from seven to three days, with children allowed to leave solitary confinement to participate in classes; PRI continues to advocate in the region for the strict prohibition of solitary confinement for children. In Kyrgyzstan, a pilot counselling programme in a juvenile correction facility for boys had positive results, and children demonstrated improved emotional and psychological well-being. Training for staff on child rights and the use of non-violent disciplinary measures was also held across the three countries.
‘When I was initially appointed, the school had some major problems: children were breaking the furniture and the staff were not trained to deal with their behaviour. [Now] we have established good discipline to deal with difficult boys. We use democratic policies (e.g. class president) and provide rewards for good behaviour.’
Director of a closed institution for children in Kazakhstan
We’ve launched the first prison radio station in the MENA region
In collaboration with the British Embassy and Morocco’s General Delegation for Prison Administration and Reintegration, PRI launched the first ever prison radio station in the Middle East and North Africa region. Idmaj Radio, which is based at Casablanca Oukacha prison, will provide both prisoners and prison staff with the opportunity to discuss important issues related to prison, offending and rehabilitation, as well as increase prisoners’ contact with the outside world – a key factor in improving mental health and reducing feelings of isolation. The radio will initially be broadcast from Oukacha prison and will then be launched at other prisons in the country.
‘I am very happy to have the opportunity be able to voice my needs and listen to programmes and experts’ opinions about things that are important, I feel that it will help me be part of the community even when I am inside the prison.’
A female prisoner at Oukacha prison
Developing effective probation: A case study
Effective probation can transform the lives of offenders, reducing stigmatisation, contributing to successful integration, building skills and resilience that can break the prison-poverty cycle, and reducing recidivism rates.
PRI conducts projects developing effective probation with government authorities, probation departments and NGO partners around the world. We adapt our methodology and recommendations to suit different political and social contexts, the partners we work with, and the country’s national institutions and legal frameworks.
As an international organisation, PRI draws on its knowledge of international human rights and criminal justice standards and best practice to inform practical projects. We are also committed to ensuring the impact of our projects is measured and documented so that we can learn from experience and successful models can be replicated elsewhere.
Our work on probation has included:
- Establishing probation systems: PRI and local authorities piloted a probation system in Tunisia, opening the country’s first probation office in Sousse in 2013. Following its success, six more offices were opened in Tunisia in 2017.
- Child-friendly probation systems: PRI and NGO partners established three rehabilitation centres in Georgia that provided legal, psycho-social and recreational services. PRI and UNICEF have worked together to develop a child-friendly probation system in Kazakhstan – the first of its kind in the region. This led to the adoption of key legislation and additional child-friendly practices.
- Gender-sensitive probation systems: Through a pioneering project in Kenya, PRI developed the first ever model for gender-specific probation, based on the UN Bangkok Rules. In Georgia, PRI collaborated with NGO partners on a project providing rehabilitation services to vulnerable women serving probation.
The full brochure outlining our practical work delivering effective probation can be downloaded here.