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International Corrections
By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Published: 03/21/2016

The March topic is ‘International Corrections.’ We are familiar with corrections here in the United States and understand the many legal issues and concepts that contributed to our current system. Yet, how familiar are we with corrections at the international level? While conducting some research I came across three particular areas of interest. I will discuss each of these areas by providing an overview, as well as some views and perspectives. Many may not be aware of the role the United Nations takes in ‘protecting the rights of prisoners.’ One particular area I found was an eye-opener: post-conflict environments have a low priority. The following areas contribute to the suffering faced by many prisoners related to, ‘extreme overcrowding; lack of food; absence of adequate care and poor sanitation; along with pitiable management and security.’ There are many issues facing corrections throughout the world and the following organizations are involved in partnerships. This is a good area to continue to research and see exactly what contributions are being made. There are many disparities found in corrections throughout the world. Some of these disparities consist of the following: overcrowding, adequate resources, lack of services and prisoner basic needs being met, limited prison space and/or buildings (often inadequate, thus creating another set of concerns), lack of training, professionalism, and restricted administration and management practices, corruption, values, political indifference, and other. Each of these alone is a concern, imagine when all are grouped together. Then we wonder why we face so many dilemmas in corrections.

Through ongoing research and collaboration we continue to work toward improvement in corrections. When we begin to look at changes throughout corrections, Dr. Frank J. Porporino reminds us of the following: “Change is also more likely to succeed (and be long-lasting) when we adapt rather than copy possible solutions to problems. The models can serve as a guide, there are no universal best practice methods.” We also need to be aware of any cultural issues as well.

The United States Department of State has a handbook available to embassy employees and available online. This handbook was created by three State Department Bureaus: ‘International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and Consular Affairs.’ Basic information related to the international standards for correctional systems can be located there. Some embassy officer’s duties require them to visit detention facilities located in the host nation. Embassy officers will visit these facilities for a variety of reasons. Two of the major reasons are to assist in collecting and observing information for inclusion in the ‘human rights report’ and to visit U.S citizens in custody.

This handbook can be located here.

I included the Table of Contents for the handbook in case you wish to review:

Section Subject Page
I. Introduction: Welcome to Prison 1
II. Corrections and Prison Systems Overview 6
III.. The Legal and Human Rights Framework 11
IV. Corrections 101 17
V. Evaluating Prison and Correctional Systems 26
VI. What to do Before You Go 33
VII. Resources 37
VIII. Appendix 40

The handbook contains a scenario for review and what the visiting officer can expect. This also highlights many of the areas for review and observation. In addition, the handbook contains words with working definitions for officers. This was very informative and well prepared information. I identified only some of the potential problems and concerns often associated with corrections. As you review the following areas, you will note many parallels with our own corrections systems.

“The goal of a correctional system is to provide various degrees of confinement in a safe (for the offender and staff), secure, humane, and transparent manner, and to provide programs that give offenders the opportunity to reform and successfully reintegrate into society.”

The following are some individual areas to consider:

Vulnerable Populations- women, juveniles, and those with physical and mental disabilities, and other. These individuals are prone to be targets for ‘abuse, exploitation, or neglect.' Increases in female prisoners- this creates a multitude of issues consisting of, but not limited to, health care, mental health, family considerations, and other.

Discriminatory Treatment- prisoners of ‘racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, women, children, LGBT persons, and the disabled.'

As you can see, many of these areas identified are directly related to our systems. There are additional resources I will share with you related to human ‘rights and law enforcement treaties.’

The following statement was interesting and needs to be shared: ‘It should be emphasized that no amount of technology will fix a dysfunctional system if there is a lack of well-trained, properly compensated, and motivated staff.’ Hopefully, sufficient information was provided for you to take the next step in accessing these links and to build upon your corrections knowledge base.

Stay safe out there.

Terry Campbell is a criminal justice professor at Kaplan University, School of Public Safety and has more than 20 years of experience in corrections and policing. He has served in various roles, including prison warden and parole administrator, for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Terry may be reached at tcampbell@kaplan.edu.

Other articles by Campbell


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