UN Adopts The Nelson Mandela Rules For The Treatment Of Prisoners

UNITED NATIONS (INPS) – The UN General Assembly unanimously adopted on December 17 the revised UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMRs). This followed a four-year revision process after a 2010 UN General Assembly resolution, which requested revision of the SMRs “so that they reflect recent advances in correctional science and best practices”.

Given that the last stage of negotiations was hosted by the government of South Africa in Cape Town, it was decided that these revised prison standards would be known as the ‘Nelson Mandela Rules’ in order to honour the legacy of the late South African President, in prison himself for 27 years and a committed advocate for the rights of prisoners.

The SMRs were initially adopted by the UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in 1955, and approved by the UN Economic and Social Council in 1957.

Since their adoption in 1955, the SMRs have been regarded by states as the primary – if not only – source of standards relating to treatment in detention, and are the key framework used by monitoring and inspection mechanisms in assessing the treatment of prisoners. However, unsurprisingly after six decades they had become increasingly out-of-date, superseded by newer human rights and criminal justice standards and developing best practice and understanding in correctional science.

In a press release PRI’s Executive Director Alison Hannah expressed her delight at the successful outcome of the four-year review of the UN Standard Minimum Rules and underlined the significance of the revision for both prisoners and prison administrations. 

“PRI is delighted at the successful outcome of this four-year review process. The updating of this key set of widely used standards, last Thursday, is a significant milestone for the advancement of prison conditions and treatment of prisoners worldwide,” stated Hannah.

“The revision is in the interest of both prisoners and prison administrations. Modern notions of prison management have been recognised and prison administrations can now go to one reliable and authoritative source for information and guidance on good prison management,” the PRI Executive Director emphasised. [International Press Syndicate – 15 January 2016]

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