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International Corrections
By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Published: 11/13/2017

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We have another interesting topic this month; ‘International Corrections.’ When I first began to think about this article, I was thinking along the lines of corrections here in the United States, corrections in Canada and Mexico, and corrections globally. During my research I came across three articles of interest, which I will discuss.
  • BBC News Release: World’s Prison Population
  • United States Department of State: INL Guide to Corrections Assistance
  • Report on International Prison Conditions
The list below was published by the BBC [1]:
Country Prison Population Population per 100,000 Jail Occupancy Level (%) Un-Sentenced Prisoners (%) Women Prisoners (%)
US 2,193,798 737 107.6 21.2 8.9
China 1,548,498 118 N/A N/A 4.6
Russia 874,161 615 79.5 16.9 6.8
Brazil 371,482 193 150.9 33.1 5.4
India 332,112 30 139 70.1 3.7
Mexico 214,450 196 133.9 43.2 5
Ukraine 162,602 350 101.30 19.5 6.1
South Africa 158,501 334 138.6 27.5 2.1
Poland 89,546 235 124.4 16.8 3
Englad/Wales 80,002 148 112.7 16.4 5.5
Japan 79,052 62 105.9 14.7 5.9
Kenya 47,036 130 284.3 45.6 42
Turkey 65,458 91 77.4 47.7 3.3
Nigeria 40,444 30 101.5 64.3 1.9
Australia 25.790 125 105.9 21.6 7.1
Scotland 6,872 134 107.5 21 4.4
N. Ireland 1,375 79 91.5 37.4 2.2
SOURCE: International Centre for Prison Studies (published by BBC)

Approximately one-half of the world’s prison population is housed in the United States, China, and Russia. The United States continues to have the highest incarceration rates at 737 people per 100,000. You can review the statistics and see how they are ranked worldwide.

I do feel additional research and review are necessary in determining reasons for the incarceration rates, what other countries are doing to help control for recidivism, prison conditions and types of prisons, types of programs available if any, are the global prisons regulated or do they choose to ignore assistance from the United States and United Nations, and other. As you can see, the potential research and data collection still remains enormous. At the same time, are the countries willing to provide the information and allow others to view their prisons systems?

The second article I was familiar with, however after review of the 27page document titled INL Guide to Corrections Assistance presented at the 15th Annual International Corrections and Prisons Association Conference on October 28, 2013, I realized there is quite a bit of information related to corrections. The International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). [2]

The following quote was informative: “A criminal justice system will only be effective as its components parts - police, justice, and corrections – and for a system to be fully effective it must give sufficient attention to the quality of all its institutions. Shoring up one institution without addressing the weaknesses of the others is not sustainable. This is often seen in the lack of attention paid to the quality and functionality of correctional systems in countries with chronically weak justice systems.” INL provides guides for the State Department employees as well as those involved in corrections. The main purpose behind the guide is to focus on ‘how reforms and sound correctional practices can support safe, secure, humane, and transparent correctional institutions.’ [3]

A very informative overview for “The Corrections World at a Glance” is beneficial to read. Also included are various definitions and relationship to the global context. If you are able to access this document, please review the ‘The Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (UN 1955), these standards are the foundation for INL’s work.’ I particularly liked the following observation and comment: ‘Human rights violations can occur in any correctional system and at any point during incarceration. Correctional systems must be structured and managed in such a way that they respect the rights of the prisoners, staff, and members of the public.’

The remaining topics focus on various assistance provided by INL and other States assistance to other countries. This is also worth your time to review and note what is occurring at the international level.

My final article selection is titled “Report on International Prison Conditions: Global Conditions in Prisons and Other Detention Facilities.” [4]

The State Department Country Reports contained various information that is a must read for those interested in corrections at the global/international level.

According to the State Department, the U.S. Government has three categories related to human rights and humanitarian concerns for people in detention.
  1. “Unsafe prison conditions, including overcrowding, poor sanitation, inadequate access to food or potable drinking water, and poor medical care, including inadequate services for people with disabilities;
  2. Mistreatment of prisoners by prison staff or other authorities; and
  3. Inadequate legal protections leading to prisoners’ incarceration, as well as failure to respect the right to legal redress while in prison.’
Once you are able to review the article contents you will have a better understanding of just how important these three areas are and, if left unchecked, will lead to more serious problems and violations.

Twenty-five countries are identified in this report as receiving United States assistance, and have concerns with ‘human rights and humanitarian concerns.’ Many countries have provided some changes yet more is necessary regarding human rights. At the same time, there are only so many resources available from the United States. I realize many countries are extremely poor and corrections is not a priority. Changes will also have to come from within each country and a commitment shown to focus on change. Some countries have excelled in making changes while other either ignore or continue to struggle. Yes, there are many reasons for this. At the same time, some countries choose not to participate and receive funding.

I enjoyed reading the articles I provided and feel you can enrich your understanding of global/international corrections by taking time to read and formulate your ideas. We can make a change if we come together.

Stay safe out there.

[1] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/uk/06/prisons/html/nn2page1.stm
[2] https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/234722.pdf
[3] www.state.gov/j/int/
[4] https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/210160.pdf

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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