Penal Reform International (PRI), Kyrgyzstan’s State Service of Execution of Punishments and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) last month jointly organised the country’s first international Penitentiary Forum. The aim of the forum, which took place in Bishkek from 28-29 March 2017 and which was supported by the British Embassy, was to create a practical dialogue platform where multiple countries could convene to discuss best practice regarding rehabilitation/resocialisation and employment of prisoners after their release, effective functioning of probation services, and ways in which to reduce prison populations.
At present, Kyrgyzstan ranks 94th on the International Centre for Prison Studies’ global list for total prison populations (out of 223 countries), and it imprisons 167 people per 100,000. PRI’s Executive Director Alison Hannah, who spoke at the forum about PRI’s work on reintegration initiatives and the measures that can support resocialisation, said that it was ‘encouraging to see an increasing focus on rehabilitation and resocialisation in Kyrgyzstan, and in the Central Asian region. The Nelson Mandela Rules make it clear that the primary purpose of prison is rehabilitation, and prisons play a fundamental part in creating safer societies by providing educational and vocational programmes that help prisoners to reintegrate in the community after release.’
Deputy Prime Minister, Zhenish Razakov, spoke at the forum, as did the UK Ambassador to the Kyrgyzstan, Robin Ord-Smith, who commented that ‘steady employment is one of the best guarantees against re-offending, but finding and keeping a job is one of the most difficult challenges a former prisoner faces. It is therefore essential that prison systems invest in helping prisoners to gain skills to increase their employability.’
Read PRI’s short guide to the Nelson Mandela Rules or watch an animated introduction. The guide summarises the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which were revised in 2015. Rule 90 of the Mandela Rules emphasises that released prisoners should be supported to lessen stigmatisation and assist with social rehabilitation. Rule 4 outlines the purposes of imprisonment, which are primarily to protect society against crime and to reduce recidivism.