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North America

South America




International Criminal Justice

Prison Systems Across The Globe




The Central African Republic

South Africa


  • The strategy has been prepared with the technical assistance of Penal Reform International (PRI) and the Judicial and Penitentiary Affairs Section of the United Nations Integrated Multidimensional Mission for Stabilization in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA)

Prison Reform initiative in Central African Republic

National Strategy for demilitarization of prison establishments

Approved in 2019

Areas of work

Children, Pre-trial justice, Prison conditions, Rehabilitation and reintegration, Torture prevention, Women

  • Previously the prison service was comprised of armed and security forces; prison management will now be transferred to professionally qualified civilian staff

Apartheid Vs U.S.

Prison during South African Apartheid vs the U.S

Sentenced to life in prison in 1964Released in 1990 and became president

Nelson Mandela

  • As of December 31, 1992, the system held 4,258 white prisoner
  • The total "non-white" prison population stood at 104,440
  • "non-white" population into three racial groups:
    • "Asian"(of Indian subcontinental ancestry): 586
    • "Coloured" (mixed-race): 27,315
    • "Black": 76,448

  • Incarceration rate per 100,000 Black males in South Africa under apartheid (1993): 851
  • Incarceration rate per 100,000 African-American males in the United States under George W. Bush (2001): 4,848


North America

United States



Felon Disenfranchisement

How many Americans lose their right to vote?

Disenfranchisement Distribution Across Correctional Populations, 2022


million people are disenfranchised due to a felony conviction (Uggen et al., 2022)

  • 6.1 million people were disenfranchised in 2016

  • Florida is the nation’s disenfranchisement leader in absolute numbers, with over 1.1 million people currently banned from voting

  • 5.3% of the African American population is disenfranchised compared to 1.5% of the adult non-African American population

  • Approximately 1 million women are disenfranchised, comprising over one-fifth of the total disenfranchised population

(Uggen et al., 2022)


Addiction in prison

The struggle with substance use and addiction in Canadian Prisons

  • Drug use and addiction are significant issues within Canada’s prisons
  • Many prisoners have a history of substance use and are at a high risk of overdose and other negative consequences
  • The majority of offenders show evidence some kind of substance abuse problem

7 of 10


Of offenders


Engaged in problematic use of alcohol and other drugs during the 1yr period prior to their incarceration

Harm Reduction

Harm reduction strategies are popular in Canada and are becoming increasingly prevalent in Canadian prisons

Some Harm Reduction methods include:

  • Prison-based needle and syringe exchange programs
  • Methadone maintenance treatment
  • Safer tattooing practices


South America




official Violence

Abuse by guards and police in Brazilian prisons

Brazilian inmates face chronic and sometimes extreme official violence

The unpopularity and political powerlessness of the inmate population means that few people care if abuses against prisoners go unpunished

Particularly in the wake of riots, escape attempts, and other serious incidents-but sometimes even for trivial offenses-prison guards and police disregard the strictures of the national prison law and resort to physical violence

Why do they resort to violence?

Low salaries

Lack of training

  • Military police officers working in several Rio Grande do Sul prisons receive only five days' training before being assigned to a job within the prison

  • Low salaries contravene the Standard Minimum Rules, which require that prison staff be rewarded with salaries that are "adequate to attract and retain suitable men and women"
  • Miserably low salaries fail to attract qualified staff and encourage corruption

Books behind bars


The overcrowding struggle in Bolivian prisons

The country's prisons and jails have long suffered from overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, with some detainees staging protests over the lack of health care

Inmates in Bolivia's overcrowded prisons are now able to reduce their jail time by reading books

"Books behind bars" offers detainees a chance get out of jail days or weeks in advance of their release date

The program has been launched in 47 prisons that do not have resources to pay for education, reintegration, or social assistance programs for prisoners

Bolivia does not have a life sentence or death penalty, but pre-trial detention can last for many years due to a slow judicial system






"Black Jails"


The Black Jails or Black Houses in China

  • Majority of black jail detainees are petitioners-citizens from rural areas who come to Beijing and provincial capitals seeking redress for abuses ranging from illegal land grabs and corruption to police torture
  • Petitioners, as citizens who have done nothing wrong-in fact, who are exercising their legal right to complain of being wronged themselves-are often persecuted by government officials, who employ security forces and plainclothes thugs known as retrievers or jiefang renyuan, to abduct them, often violently, and then detain them in black jails
  • A Chinese legal expert who has extensively researched the issue of black jails estimates that the number of incidents in which citizens are illegally detained each year in black jails in Beijing alone is as high as 10,000, though that number includes individuals who are detained on multiple occasions.


  • Vagrancy detention system that legally allowed police to detain "undesirables"-mostly petitioners, but also including beggars and any individuals who lacked official identification papers-and to transfer them to official "relief and repatriation" centers where they were held for a short period of time before being returned to their home districts

  • Human rights abuses related to China's black jails bear a striking similarity to those of the official compulsory custody-and-repatriation, or shourong qiansong, system, which the government abruptly abolished in June 2003

Black jails:

Researchers reported that extralegal black jails began operating within months of the abolition of the vagrancy detention system

As many as 10,000 people are illegally detained in black jails in Beijing alone

Minor Solitairy COnfinement

Abusive punishment in Japanese prisons

  • Amnesty International has received a number of reports of prisoners being punished with keiheikin on an apparently arbitrary or even vindictive basis for minor infractions of prison rules.
  • Detainees have also reported being subjected to keiheikin for threatening to make an official complaint about their ill-treatment

“Minor solitary confinement” (keiheikin) is a form of administrative punishment used as a disciplinary measure in all centers of detention in Japan

Required to remain motionless in a kneeling or cross-legged position in the middle of a single-cell for hours on end (reportedly, 7.00am - 5.00pm) for a period of up to two months

Those undergoing this punishment:

Not permitted to do physical exercise, take baths, meet people from outside the prison, or write letters. Prisoners may also be forced to fix their eyes continuously on a single place on the cell wall, often where a poster bearing an exhortation to “reflect” has been hung

All communication is cut off, except when deemed necessary between the prisoner and guards, and the cell is stripped bare of all personal items, such as books, photographs and paper






Pre-trial detention

Remand in Scottish prisons

  • More than a quarter of the 7,775 people in Scotland's prisons are awaiting trial, deportation or sentencing, according to the latest official statistics
  • Remand prisoners numbers have increased as a proportion of the prison population from 19.9% in 2015 to 28.4% in 2023
  • Lawyers say they have clients who have been on remand in Scottish prisons for up to two-and-a-half years

Average daily population (untried) in Scottish prisons

According to a 2009 report by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR), “Scotland has a remand problem” given that the number of people entering prison on remand each year is higher than the number entering to serve a sentence

Remand: the imprisonment of individuals prior to trial or after they have been convicted but are waiting to be sentenced

The imprisoned population of Scotland comes disproportionately from the most deprived communities in Scotland In addition, the probability of imprisonment increases with increasing deprivation

Mental health

The ramifications of overcrowding in Swiss prisons

  • Results in deplorable material conditions for both the prisoners and the prison staff and has a negative impact on the type of activity regime offered
  • The situation in terms of activity regime has not improved for most persons on remand detention, who often spend up to 23 hours a day in their cells
  • The number of specialized places for institutional therapeutic treatment or preventive detention measures is insufficient compared to the needs

Prison overcrowding is a considerable problem in prisons in French-speaking Switzerland

Consequently, people with psychiatric disorders continue to be held in non-specialized establishments which are not fit for this purpose




New Zealand


Disability in prison

Abuse within Australian prisons

  • Across all 14 prisons, people with disabilities are repeatedly bullied
  • Some prisoners with disabilities are manipulated to do the bidding of other prisoners
    • If they try to resist, they will be threatened or beaten up
  • Across the prisons I visited you see people with disabilities – particularly mental health conditions -- kept in solitary for days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years
  • Prisoners with disabilities have little to no mental health support


Of Australia’s prison population has a disability, whether physical, cognitive, or a mental health condition

Prisoners with disabilities regularly face physical and sexual abuse

It’s even more damaging for Aboriginal people, because culturally family and community is extremely importantInstitutionalized racism against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is so common and accepted that it’s not reported by prisoners


Staff shortages in New Zealand prisons

New Zealand’s prisoners are becoming “excessively disconnected and isolated” because prison staffing shortages have hit crisis point

The department of Corrections is down by more than 850 frontline staff across its prisons – 498 of those are vacant positions, with another 354 unable to work due to sickness, injury, leave or “some other reason”

The lack of staff means that prison programmes, time out of cells, and visiting hours have been slashed due to health and safety concerns

Of 76 psychology and medium intensity rehabilitation programs, 21 have been delayed or stopped because of staffing shortages


Under the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, ratified by 53 nations, persons accused of a crime in Antarctica are subject to punishment by their own country.

The Antarctic treaty



An Alleyway in Hell. (2009). Human Rights Watch. https://www.hrw.org/report/2009/11/12/alleyway-hell/chinas-abusive-black-jails Are Scotland’s prisons fit for purpose? (2023, August 3). https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-66121355 BOP Statistics: Inmate Race. (n.d.). Retrieved November 9, 2023, from https://www.bop.gov/about/statistics/statistics_inmate_race.jsp Brazil aims to build 30 prisons this year to tackle crisis: Michel Temer. (n.d.). DNA India. Retrieved November 9, 2023, from https://www.dnaindia.com/world/report-brazil-aims-to-build-30-prisons-this-year-to-tackle-crisis-michel-temer-2293293 Brazil: Voting rights are flouted. (2022, October 3). Prison Insider. https://www.prison-insider.com/en/articles/bresil-droit-de-vote-bafoue Canada | World Prison Brief. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2023, from https://www.prisonstudies.org/country/canada Central African Republic. (n.d.). Penal Reform International. Retrieved November 24, 2023, from https://www.penalreform.org/where-we-work/africa/central-african-republic/ Corlett, E. (2023, January 18). ‘People don’t want to spend money on law breakers’: Staff shortages send New Zealand’s prisons to crisis point. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jan/19/people-dont-want-to-spend-money-on-law-breakers-staff-shortages-send-new-zealands-prisons-to-crisis-point Dorson, D. (2023, January 30). Many issues in Canadian prisons: Correctional Investigator’s Report. The John Howard Society of Canada. https://johnhoward.ca/blog/many-issues-in-canadian-prisons-correctional-investigators-report/ HRW: Behind Bars in Brazil (Abuses by Guards and Police). (n.d.). Retrieved November 27, 2023, from https://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports98/brazil/Brazil-09.htm Incarceration Rates by Country 2023. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2023, from https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/incarceration-rates-by-country Initiative, P. P. (n.d.). Comparing Florida’s incarceration rate with NATO countries. Retrieved November 16, 2023, from https://www.prisonpolicy.org/graphs/NATO2021/FL.html International Comparison of Felon Voting Laws—Felon Voting—ProCon.org. (n.d.). Felon Voting. Retrieved November 16, 2023, from https://felonvoting.procon.org/international-comparison-of-felon-voting-laws/ Interview: The Horror of Australia’s Prisons | Human Rights Watch. (2018). Human Rights Watch. https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/02/06/interview-horror-australias-prisons Pages for pardons? In Bolivia, inmates can cut jail time by reading | Reuters. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2023, from https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/pages-pardons-bolivia-inmates-can-cut-jail-time-by-reading-2022-05-03/ Prison Conditions In South Africa: III. DIFFERENT TREATMENT BASED ON RACE. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2023, from https://www.hrw.org/reports/1994/southafrica/5.htm Result details. (n.d.). Retrieved November 25, 2023, from https://search.coe.int/directorate_of_communications/Pages/result_details.aspx?ObjectId=0900001680a6ccd6 Richardson, S., & Human Rights Watch (Eds.). (2009). “An alleyway in hell”: China’s abusive “black jails.” Human Rights Watch. The Harsh Reality of Life Under Apartheid in South Africa. (2023, August 1). HISTORY. https://www.history.com/news/apartheid-policies-photos-nelson-mandela Weekes, J. (n.d.). Substance Abuse in Corrections FAQs.


  • World Incarceration Rank: #3
  • Incarceration Rate: 381
  • Total Incarcerated: 811,707

  • Local Jails & Prisons: 1,400
  • Federal Prisons: 5


  • World Incarceration Rank: 202
  • Incarceration Rate: 37
  • Total Incarcerated: 47,064

  • Federal Prisons: 184

South Africa

  • World Incarceration Rank: 42
  • Incarceration Rate: 248
  • Total Incarcerated: 147, 922

  • Prisons: 235 established correctional centers

  • World Incarceration Rank: #1
  • Incarceration Rate: 629
  • Total Incarcerated: 2,068,800

The United States of America

  • Local Jails: 3,116
  • State Prisons: 1,566
  • Federal Prisons: 98


  • World Incarceration Rank: 107
  • Incarceration Rate: 144
  • Total Incarcerated: 7,939
  • Prisons: 15

Central African Republic

  • World Incarceration Rank: 216
  • Incarceration Rate: 16
  • Total Incarcerated: 764

  • Prisons: 38 (only 13 are operational)

New Zealand

  • World Incarceration Rank: 123
  • Incarceration Rate: 164
  • Total Incarcerated: 8,397
  • Prisons: 18


  • World Incarceration Rank: 125
  • Incarceration Rate: 119
  • Total Incarcerated: 1,690,000

  • Federal Prisons: 683


  • World Incarceration Rank: 55
  • Incarceration Rate: 167
  • Total Incarcerated: 42,909
  • Prisons: 111


  • World Incarceration Rank: 137
  • Incarceration Rate: 104
  • Total Incarcerated: 38,570

  • Provincial / Territorial Prisons: 173
  • Federal Prisons: 43


  • World Incarceration Rank: 102
  • Incarceration Rate: 157
  • Total Incarcerated: 18,260

  • Establishemnts/insitutions: 40


  • World Incarceration Rank: 170
  • Incarceration Rate: 73
  • Total Incarcerated: 6,316
  • Prisons: 89