Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sudan: Reforming prisons in South Sudan

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has begun assisting the Government of South Sudan in its prison reform process in the agency’s first project in the region as it emerges from a decades-long civil war.

The project, funded by Canada and undertaken in cooperation with the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy and the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), will boost the prison system’s capabilities in the areas of information management, staffing, policy development and regulations, according to information released today by UNODC.

“This includes enhancing the capacity of the Southern Sudan Prison Service to respond more effectively to the needs and circumstances of children, women and other groups with special needs in prison,” said Mark Shaw, UNODC Inter-Regional Adviser, who leads UNODC’s work in Sudan.

At the moment, the prison service functions with almost no reliable information on the prison population and its own staff, Mr. Shaw said. The UNODC website carries a photograph of a wooden board on a prison facility, on which numbers of prisoners had been chalked in by hand.

“As a first step, a survey of the current prison population will be carried out to understand its characteristics and the needs of the detainees,” Mr. Shaw stated. A system to manage such information will then be developed.

In addition, senior staff will be trained in issues crucial for prison reform, including administrative procedures, planning, international standards, and responding to the needs of prisoners with special needs, including women, children and the mentally ill.

In order to improve the management of the Prison Service as well as to develop longer-term penal policies focusing on vulnerable groups, UNODC is providing expertise to support the drafting of relevant legal, policy and regulatory frameworks, the agency said.

As many as two million people were killed and 4.5 million others displaced during Sudan’s north-south civil war, which is separate from the conflict in the country’s western region of Darfur.

In 2005, the region of Southern Sudan was granted autonomy by the Government of Sudan through the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), leading to the creation of the Government of Southern Sudan whose responsibilities included management of the prison service.

Source: U.N. News Centre