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Prisons in Africa: An Evaluation from a Human Rights Perspective


Jeremy Sarkin


University of South Africa

March 26, 2009

Sur International Human Rights Journal, Vol. 9, pp. 22-49, 2009
Hofstra Univ. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-13

Abstract:     
While prisons in Africa are often considered the worst in the world many other prisons systems are worse off in terms of violence, overcrowding and a host of other problems. This is not to argue that African prisons are human rights friendly. Many are in a deficient condition and their practices are at odds with human rights standards. However, prisons in many parts of the world are in crisis. Never before have there been so many problems within penal systems and such large numbers of people in institutions of incarceration. This article examines the historical development of African prisons from colonial times and considers the legacy that colonialism has left in prisons on the continent. The article also examines a range of issues in prisons throughout Africa including pretrial detention, overcrowding, resources and governance, women and children in prison, and rehabilitation. A substantial amount of space is devoted to the reforms that are occurring across the continent, and recommendations are made with regard to what further reforms are necessary. The role of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights as well as the Special Rapporteur on Prisons and Conditions of Detention in Africa are also considered.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 43

Keywords: Africa, human rights, prisons, colonialism, pre-trial prisoners, overcrowding, women, children, governance, resources, African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, rehabilitation, reform

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Date posted: March 31, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Sarkin, Jeremy, Prisons in Africa: An Evaluation from a Human Rights Perspective (March 26, 2009). Sur International Human Rights Journal, Vol. 9, pp. 22-49, 2009; Hofstra Univ. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-13. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1368922

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Jeremy Sarkin (Contact Author)
University of South Africa ( email )
South Africa
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