There is very little data on the background and circumstances of women in the criminal justice system, and more research is needed to understand the characteristics of women who come into conflict with the law.
The Bangkok Rules explicitly encourage research in particular into:
- the characteristics of women who come into contact with the criminal justice system
- why women offend
- the impact of mothers’ imprisonment on children
- the impact of imprisonment on women
- the most effective means of supporting women to build positive, self-supporting lives
Between 2013 and 2015, PRI carried out research in seven countries in four regions in order to improve the evidence-base on the characteristics of women offenders. The countries of research were: South Caucasus (Armenia and Georgia), Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan), the Middle East and North Africa (Jordan, Tunisia) and Uganda where the survey was carried out by PRI’s partner, the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative.
The research sought to gather information about women prisoners such as:
- age, number of children, educational level and economic status and previous work background
- whether there is a history of drug dependency, alcoholism or previous victimisation
- what offences the women have been charged or convicted for, including the length of pre-trial or prison sentence and whether the women had access to legal representation during the criminal procedure
- what has led to the offence and the consequences women have experienced as a result of their conviction and imprisonment
- what women prisoners themselves say will help them to build a new life upon release.
The report findings provide important facts and figures illustrating national and regional characteristics of female offenders. A clearer picture about the female prison population should enable states and other stakeholders to identify priority areas where women offenders will benefit most from changes to law, policies and practice and will provide crucial information on the kind and design of measures needed in each country/region.
We are liaising with other organisations and bodies who are conducting comparable research projects in other regions, including the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Thailand Institute of Justice.
Findings from our research and from other country studies have been brought together in an article by PRI’s Policy Director, Andrea Huber: Women in criminal justice systems: the added value of the UN Bangkok Rules.
Our research methodology is available other organisations and institutions who would like to embark on similar projects. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.