The COVID-19 pandemic poses particular risks to prisons and other places of detention, especially in conflict-affected settings, requiring critical preparedness and concerted and coordinated responses. The Operational Toolbox: COVID-19 Preparedness & Response in Places of Detention, developed by the Justice and Corrections Service of the Department of Peace Operations jointly with UNITAR and the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, provides comprehensive and ready-to-use communication tools with clear information and visual posters to support prison administrators and staff in the efforts to prevent COVID-19 from entering prisons, and mitigate its impact in case of an outbreak.
In times of conflict, people deprived of their liberty are often overlooked, disregarded or denied their rights. UN Peacekeeping works to ensure prisoners are not forgotten.
Many systems of justice entail punishment by imprisonment, but there are standards that this punishment must meet. Our corrections components protect the rights of prisoners to help promote faith in a country’s legal system and the long-term stability it fosters.
Corrections Officers assist national prison authorities with strategic and operational matters such as including prison management and administration. They help national counterparts to establish a robust prison security framework, including basic intelligence gathering, staff security training and incident early warning detection, all to enhance the role of prisons in protecting the public. Corrections Officers ensure compliance with international standards for the humane treatment of prisoners, including the provision of basic services such as food, water, sanitation systems and health services, and help reduce prison overcrowding and prolonged and arbitrary detention. Our corrections officers also coordinate with national and international partners to improve prison infrastructure, enhance the professionalism and accountability of corrections staff and systems, develop and implement national corrections reform strategies, and strengthen the legislative and regulatory framework.
Corrections Officers in United Nations peace operations may be United Nations staff members, corrections experts provided by national governments, United Nations Volunteers (UNV) or consultants. Corrections Officers bring a wealth of specialized expertise as prison directors, prison registrars, prison security experts, prison doctors and prison officers.
As of August 2017, over 30 United Nations professional staff and more than 300 Government Provided Personnel serve as Corrections Officers in United Nations peace operations around the world.
United Nations Corrections Officers work closely with other United Nations partners as part of the Global Focal Point for Police, Justice and Corrections Areas in the Rule of Law in Post-Conflict and Other Crisis Situations. UN Peacekeeping, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other partners are combining their respective rule of law capacities and leveraging their comparative advantages, through co-location of teams and convening of all other United Nations entities involved in rule of law work. The Global Focal Point arrangement represents a ground-breaking approach to addressing the institutional problems associated with the United Nations’ delivery of rule of law assistance in crisis-affected settings.
Corrections components also receive significant support from the Group of Friends of Corrections in Peace Operations. The Group of Friends is an international platform for UN Member States and their correctional services to connect on correctional policies, practices and activities, to advise and support corrections work in United Nations peace operations.
Haiti – The MINUJUSTH Corrections Section has helped to strengthen operational and management capacities of the Haitian Direction de l'administration pénitentiaire, resulting in 17 of 19 existing prisons now being operational. MINUJUSTH has also helped the Haitian authorities to draft a new Prison Law and a Strategic Development Plan (2017 – 2021), and to establish a prison inquiry commission to address deaths in custody. MINUJUSTH, the new rule of law mission which replaced MINUSTAH as of 15 October 2017, continues to provide targeted interventions with the potential to place Haiti on the path towards the sustainable strengthening of its rule of law institutions.
Darfur – In Darfur, UNAMID has helped improve security through support to national prison authorities. With funding from the United Nations Development Programme and the World Health Organization, as well as the Mission’s budget, UNAMID has supported the refurbishment and improvement of 14 prisons across Darfur. Such improvements have led to more humane conditions of detention overall, decreasing the potential for prisoner unrest and contributing to improved security. Furthermore, the number and intensity of prison incidents reduced from an average of 14 incidents/escapes per year in the period 2008-2013 to eight per year in 2014-2016.
Liberia – In Liberia, the UNMIL Corrections Section advocated for the national prison service to have greater management of its budget; helped to ensure the recognition and protection of uniformed personnel under the civil service law; supported the independent oversight of prisons; assisted in the maintenance and updating of the national prisoner database; and trained Liberian police to take over security functions at the Monrovia Central Prison. It is likely that these initiatives contributed to the decrease in prison escapes, from 17 incidents (involving 45 prisoners) in 2014 to 14 incidents (involving 21 prisoners) in 2015. The impact of the Mission’s work in the prisons area was particularly notable in 2014 and 2015 during the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease, which presented a major public health crisis and consequent threats to public safety and security. UNMIL helped prison authorities to develop operational plans and budgetary proposals for the prevention and management of Ebola, and organized special training for prison personnel on health and the use of protective equipment. Due in large part to these efforts, no Ebola cases arose in any prison in Liberia.