Home > A handbook for prison staff with focus on the prevention of ill-treatment in prison.

Murdoch, Jim and Jiricka, Vaclav . (2016) A handbook for prison staff with focus on the prevention of ill-treatment in prison. Brussels: Council of Europe. 92 p.

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In Europe, the old adage that individuals are sent to prison as punishment rather than for punishment has now been supplemented by a further maxim: that prisoners retain all civil rights other than those that are incompatible with the very fact of loss of liberty. Prisoners retain their human rights, and the scope of these rights is increasing. For example, a plethora of decisions and judgments of the European Court of Human Rights has helped spell out the content of rights relating to communication with the outside world and exercise of the franchise. In Europe at least, prisons are changing in how the legal system engages with the treatment of prisoners.

This text examines one particular aspect of this protection: the prohibition of ill-treatment in prison. It focuses upon what this prohibition entails, and the emergence of positive obligations and new expectations in respect of the responsibilities of prison services towards those entrusted to its care. It also examines the development of new obligations in respect of combating the impunity of those who use ill-treatment in places of detention. It seeks to provide a basic awareness of European standards, both in terms of legal obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and in respect of standard-setting by allied bodies (in particular, by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), but also by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe). It also highlights examples of good practice in domestic systems that may be worthy of emulation elsewhere.

Working in prisons is not without significant challenge. The intention is that this text will help those concerned with this area of public provision achieve a more humane and open service. In this regard, it seeks to help realisation of Rule 81(4) of the Committee of Ministers Recommendation Rec. R(2006)2 on the European Prison Rules. This provides that “The training of all staff shall include instruction in the international and regional human rights instruments and standards, especially by ECHR and the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT Convention), as well as in the application of the European Prison Rules.”

This text is designed for practitioners. It provides a guide to these legal instruments and standards in an accessible way. It follows upon a multilateral meeting held in Strasbourg in spring 2015 which helped bring together management and leadership from prison services from across Europe to address issues of common concern. It was clear from the discussions during the two days of the meeting that not only do many countries face the same set of problems, but also that “good practice” does exist across Europe, and that discussion not only of these challenges but also of possible solutions can be of real assistance. Following the meeting, representatives were asked to highlight further instances of “good practice” in their countries that could be of use elsewhere across Europe. Many good ideas were highlighted. In the space available, only a handful of these could be included.

Item Type:Evidence resource
Publication Type:Report
Drug Type:Alcohol or other drugs in general
Intervention Type:AOD disorder harm reduction, Crime prevention
Pages:92 p.
Publisher:Council of Europe
Place of Publication:Brussels
Subjects:J Health care, prevention and rehabilitation > Health care programme or facility > Prison-based health service
MM-MO Crime and law > Legal rights > Rights of substance users
MM-MO Crime and law > Justice system > Correctional system and facility > Prison
MP-MR Policy, planning, economics, work and social services > Political process > Advocacy
T Demographic characteristics > Substance or health care worker
T Demographic characteristics > Social worker
T Demographic characteristics > Prison Inmate (prisoner)
VA Geographic area > Europe

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