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The Prison System - Alternatives to Incarceration

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Part 3 of the 'Prison System' sector of the Criminal Justice Assessment Toolkit, produced by the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime in close co-operaiton with the Strategic Police Matters Unit of the OSCE Secretariat.


Summary

Prison populations around the world are increasing, placing enormous financial burdens on governments. In the meantime, there is growing recognition that imprisonment does not achieve some of its most important stated objectives, as well as being harmful – to offenders, to their families and in the long-term, to the community.

Imprisonment has several objectives. It keeps persons suspected of having committed a crime under secure control before their guilt or innocence is determined by a court. It punishes offenders by depriving them of their liberty after they have been convicted of an offence. It keeps them from committing further crimes while they are in prison and, in theory, allows them to be rehabilitated during their period of imprisonment. The goal of rehabilitation is to address the underlying factors that led to criminal behaviour and by so doing, reducing the likelihood of re-offending. However, it is precisely this objective that is generally not being met by imprisonment. On the contrary, evidence shows that prisons not only rarely rehabilitate, but they tend to further criminalise individuals, leading to re-offending and a cycle of release and imprisonment, which does nothing to reduce overcrowding in prisons or to build safer communities.

The majority of prisoners worldwide come from economically and socially disadvantaged backgrounds. Poverty, unemployment, lack of housing, broken families, histories of psychological problems and mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence are realities that are likely to be found in most offenders’ lives. Many are in prison for non-violent or minor offences. By using prison as an answer to all offences committed by such individuals, not only is the issue of safety in the community not addressed in any sustainable manner, the cycle of impoverishment, loss of jobs, weakening of employment chances, damage to relationships, worsening of psychological and mental illnesses and continued or increased drug use is perpetuated. There are also many health risks associated with overcrowded prisons, including the spread of infectious disease, such as tuberculosis and HIV. In many countries violence is a common element of prison life, especially where there is overcrowding.



Reports, research papers and legal documents

Criminal justice system\Penitentiary system\Alternatives to incarceration,
Offenders

Accountability, Detention, Judicial system, Law reform, Penitentiary


Handbook, manual


UN

Austria

15 November 2006

UN\UNODC

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Vienna International Centre
PO Box 500
A-1400 Vienna
Austria
Tel.: +43 1 26060 0
Fax: +43 1 26060 5866


Relation type Document Title Category
Is a part of Criminal Justice Assessment ToolkitCriminal Justice Assessment Toolkit Reports, research papers and legal documents


UNODC

Alternatives to Incarceration [English] (850.13 Kb) Alternatives to Incarceration [English] (Format: PDF) http://polis.osce.org/library/view?item_id=2706&attach_id=538
Альтернативы тюремному заключению [Russian] (641.63 Kb) Альтернативы тюремному заключению [Russian] (Format: PDF) http://polis.osce.org/library/view?item_id=2706&attach_id=2959


United Nations Office or Drugs and Crime http://www.unodc.org

Documents

Alternatives to Incarceration [English] (850.13 Kb) Alternatives to Incarceration [English] (Format: PDF) http://polis.osce.org/library/view?item_id=2706&attach_id=538
Альтернативы тюремному заключению [Russian] (641.63 Kb) Альтернативы тюремному заключению [Russian] (Format: PDF) http://polis.osce.org/library/view?item_id=2706&attach_id=2959