Global Prison Trends In the third blog of our series exploring the trends documented in 2020, Gene Hirschberger, a researcher for the report, explains prison budgets. Jean details the inadequate resource levels for prisons globally and its impact on the human rights of prisoners.
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Mass overcrowding, lack of access to health care, inhumane detention conditions, difficult working conditions for staff, violence and discrimination are some of the problems that prisons around the world have been facing for years, according to Global Prison Trends Has been recorded in 2020. In this report, I found a common theme across all prison systems (with a few exceptions) that there is a lack of adequate resources allocated to run these institutions smoothly; And in the current context of the global pandemic, coupled with the global economic crisis, this situation may become even more serious.
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First, it’s important to remember that prison is “an expensive enterprise,” as the think tank Prison Policy Initiative says. Authorities – usually public – have to meet the basic needs of people in prison, which by definition they cannot meet on their own, such as food, medical care, sometimes clothing, housing and related operating costs, Like building maintenance, electricity or water. There are also significant financial costs associated with safety and security, including staff recruitment, training and salaries. Finally, adequate funding is also needed to provide an enabling environment for rehabilitation and reintegration through targeted activities, programs and support.
In addition to those direct and easily identifiable aspects of incarceration, there are a wide range of additional “indirect costs” that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has described as “difficult to measure but … very large” and long-term. This includes additional costs such as costs associated with policing, bail fees, or even costs incurred when a close family member is in jail, such as visits or phone calls. To go even further, and although almost impossible to measure, the lasting effects of confinement on people’s lives, including health, personal finances, changes in employment and broader societal costs, will increase the costs. still.
Recently, the Prison Policy Initiative took on the challenge of determining the true total cost of imprisonment in the United States. It concluded that while public corrections agencies reported a total budget of $80.7 billion for 2017, the actual total cost of imprisonment in the country was $182 billion annually. Although this study focuses on the United States, it is not difficult to imagine that the general conclusion, namely that imprisonment has much greater costs to governments and society than is actually allocated, could apply to almost all countries. ,
The data we were able to find showed that prison systems generally receive low levels of funding; There were some exceptions, but that was generally the rule. The lack of funding effectively means that prisons remain a low political priority. A comparative look at government spending on prisons in 54 countries shows that prison budgets are typically less than 0.3 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP). For example, in 2017, prison spending in the 28 European Union (EU) member states averaged 0.2 percent of national gross domestic product.
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The data we were able to find showed that prison systems generally receive low levels of funding; There were some exceptions, but that was generally the rule. The lack of funding effectively means that prisons remain a low political priority.
Many prison systems are so under-resourced that they struggle to provide basic needs such as food, medical care, clothing, and even housing in a safe and sanitary environment. For example, in Cambodia, the amount allocated for food per prisoner per day was reported to be less than 1 euro (3,500 KHR). The international poverty line set by the World Bank is approximately 1.70 euros ($1.90). Although this standard covers more than just the cost of food, it provides a basis of comparison to indicate how little can be spent on food in some prisons. As a result, in many countries, authorities rely on families, charities, or religious organizations to provide food, health services, and other essentials to people in prison.
It appears that the main costs of prisons are staff and infrastructure. In France, about 41 percent of the prison administration budget in 2017 was devoted to staff, administrative and operational costs. In Italy, the proportion is higher: 76 percent of the 2019 prison administration budget was allocated to personnel costs. In South Africa, staff compensation and payments for buildings and other fixed structures accounted for 74 percent of the Department of Correctional Services’ budget for 2018–19.
This isn’t too surprising, as buildings and staff are simply resource-intensive, especially when there are so many people in prisons around the world. However, there are two more problems involved in this phenomenon:
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First, the emphasis on infrastructure and staff often means that there is not much left for rehabilitation and reintegration activities and support, which lags behind. Second, this high proportion of total funding does not mean that it is used efficiently.
Despite accounting for one of the largest parts of prison-related expenditure in many places, infrastructure (including sanitation) remains substandard and prison staff are underpaid and overworked. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that people are at greater risk within prison facilities due to, among other things, overcrowding in unsanitary buildings, lack of access to fresh air, water, and health care, as well as other underlying health conditions that disproportionately Are. Impact on prisoners This, in turn, puts the safety of prison staff at risk, as they lack the resources to protect themselves and those they protect. Some countries therefore opted for mass releases in response to the outbreak, revealing how serious the situation could be: people were detained, in order to protect their lives and society as a whole.
It is difficult to quantify the amount of money spent on criminal justice systems, and particularly prison systems, globally. One reason for this is lack of transparency.
There are very few prison services (or their ministries) that provide readily available, clear, understandable or even up-to-date information. In many cases, the only solution is to search the entire state budget, which creates a number of problems: data and information related to prisons and criminal justice are buried (and sometimes scattered) in massive amounts of other information, the format Due to the technicalities and content of the budget sometimes making it difficult to understand, national specificities in how the budget is prepared and what it includes hinder international comparisons. In other cases, the information is not readily available or is not complete because it is a matter of national security.
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The Classification of Functions of Government (COFOG), an international standard classifying the purpose of government activities developed by the OECD and the United Nations Statistics Division, includes prisons as a component, providing a basis for international comparisons. However, it is underutilized globally.
Providing adequate funding to prisons is not about numbers and statistics. This is not a minor change. It is not about converting prisons into 5-star hotels or even 1-star hotels! In the current context, given the situation in so many countries, it is about human rights.
When prison budgets are not sufficient to meet even the basic needs of the people living there, and when families and civil society cannot support them, people in prison die from malnutrition and poor health.
When prison budgets are inadequate to provide prison and probation staff with the means to safely and efficiently carry out their missions, it can have serious consequences for both inmates and staff. The deteriorating living conditions of those incarcerated, coupled with abusive working conditions for staff, often lead to increased tensions, violence, and ultimately deaths within prisons.
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When prison budgets are insufficient to provide an environment conducive to rehabilitation, imprisonment becomes a cycle that is almost impossible to break, with high recidivism rates and lasting effects on individuals and society.
Simply put, lack of funding leads to human rights violations in prisons and should be addressed as such, not just a budgetary concern. This is even more important now as the coronavirus threatens the health and lives of people in detention.
Funding is not the only way to address what has been described as the “global prison crisis,” but it is important because it is inherently contradictory. More resources are needed in most parts of the world. However, the focus should be more on quantity rather than quality. It is important that prison systems receive adequate funding to function smoothly. It is equally important that these resources are used appropriately to protect the fundamental rights of people in prison and focus on reintegration and rehabilitation, which is the primary objective of imprisonment, as per UN Nelson It is determined by the Mandela Rules.
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