OAS Member States call for the humanization of prison systems

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WASHINGTON, USA — The authorities for penitentiary policies of the Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) called for the adoption of measures to promote initiatives for the humanization of prison systems, recognizing that one of the main objectives of deprivation of liberty is the rehabilitation and social reintegration of the individual.

The IV meeting of officials responsible for the penitentiary and prison policies of the Americas, held this week in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, concluded with the adoption of 12 recommendations that aim to promote the necessary measures in the countries of the region to eliminate the overcrowding in prisons, which will lead to decent living conditions for prisoners. In addition, recognize the importance of deprivation of liberty with a differentiated approach in order to ensure the confinement in decent conditions of vulnerable groups, and reinforced the commitment of Member States regarding policies and programs to reduce recidivism and agreed on the need for standardized of quality data and information to guide the development and management of public policy.

Among the recommendations emanating from the meeting are:

  • Promote initiatives to humanize prison systems;
  • Make every necessary effort to eliminate overcrowding in prisons;
  • Recognize the importance of deprivation of liberty with a differentiated approach in order to ensure confinement in decent conditions of vulnerable groups;
  • Promote partnerships with public and private entities for the implementation of rehabilitation programs that facilitate the social reintegration of inmates;
  • Promote the professionalization of prison staff at all levels;
  • Reinforce member states’ commitment with regard to prison data reporting to advance a proposal for a standardized methodology and form for the prison survey for the region;
  • Instruct the department of public security of the OAS to work on establishing national points of contact on penitentiary and prison policies in the member states; finalize and disseminate the Inter-American Strategy for Strengthening Prison Systems and in the training and professionalization of prison officers, among other issues;
  • Reinforce member states’ commitment to recidivism reduction policies and programs;
  • Support the proposal that emanated from the seventh meeting of ministers responsible for Public Security in the Americas (MISPA), to convene a joint session of the MISPA process and the meeting of ministers of justice or other ministers or attorneys general of the Americas (REMJA) to collectively address various common issues in a coordinated manner;
  • Convene a hemispheric meeting to specifically address the situation of minors deprived of liberty;
  • Convene the V Meeting of authorities responsible for the penitentiary and prison policies of OAS Member States in Honduras;
  • To thank the people and government of the Dominican Republic for their hospitality and kindness for hosting the 4th meeting.

During the meeting in the Dominican Republic, countries called for the promotion  of professionalization of prison staff at all levels, highlighting the importance of training prison staff as a fundamental aspect to humanize the deprivation of liberty; and requested the general secretariat of the OAS to finalize and disseminate the Inter-American Strategy for Strengthening Prison Systems of the region.

The OAS secretary-general, Luis Almagro, said that “a humanization perspective of deprivation of liberty invites us to focus on the person, both in officials and inmates.” The OAS high ranking official also invited countries to consider sentences not only as a punishment but as “an opportunity to transform and awaken the human potential of the detained people. It is necessary to humanize prisons in an integral way, with an infrastructure free of overcrowding, with professional staff and believe in the reintegration of detainees,” added secretary-general Almagro.

For her part, the secretary for multidimensional security of the OAS, Farah Urrutia, said that “modernization or construction of new prisons should not be the only response to overcrowding, the solution also involves criminal policy, including the use of alternative measures to the deprivation of liberty, and a greater commitment to rehabilitation and social reintegration programs”.

For his part, the attorney general of the Dominican Republic, Jean Rodríguez, thanked the OAS for allowing the relaunch of the forum on prison matters, and the Member States for the contributions made and highlighted the “work that is coming in the region to improve the conditions of those deprived of liberty of our countries, to increase the levels of rehabilitation and reintegration and make visible this important work in the eyes of our citizens ”, concluded Rodríguez.

During the two-day debate, the ministers and authorities of the Americas discussed issues such as: conditions of deprivation of liberty; staff professionalization; rehabilitation and reintegration programs, and information systems.

OAS Member States also agreed that the V meeting of authorities Responsible for Prison and Prison Policies will be held in Honduras in 2021.

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