Human Rights and Their Application in Prisons
(2016) 227 Prison Service Journal 17-22
6 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2016 Last revised: 13 Mar 2017
Date Written: September 1, 2016
It is now formally accepted that, when people are imprisoned for committing a criminal offence, the loss of liberty is the punishment. They are not to be further punished by harsh conditions, humiliation or violence. This may not be universally acknowledged in the wider community but it is in principle and in law. It is therefore also accepted, and spelt out in international instruments, that prisoners retain all their human rights other than rights the limitation of which is ‘demonstrably necessitated by the fact of incarceration’. What does this mean in practice? My research over a number of years on Australian and comparable jurisdictions has suggested that making ‘human rights’ operational in prisons requires three broad areas to be working together: having rights-based laws; having a culture which endorses rights and expects prisons to be operated in ways which respect rights; and having external monitoring of rights compliance and practices within prisons. This paper outlines how these three areas work, with most attention to the first and third given space limitations.
Keywords: Prisons, human rights, torture, monitoring, OPCAT
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