International and regional standards set out the fundamental elements of how prisons should be organised and run. In addition international, regional and national policy and advocacy agencies provide advice and guidance on how to achieve these standards.

Prison systems exist and operate in diverse contexts, low income to high income, fragile states and those affected by conflict and stable countries with mature democratic governance.

Social, health and criminal justice policies clearly have an impact on what a prison system is asked to do, or how it copes with its mandate: ‘vagrancy’ laws may change the nature of prison populations as will how governments choose to deal with those who use drugs, or indeed what type of drugs are legal or not.

Justice polices that promote restorative practice or community sanctions further directly influence the nature of prison systems and their populations.

International standards recognise this diversity yet maintain fundamental principles based on the duty of care which the state has  to treat prisoners humanely and   respect their dignity as human beings  while maintaining appropriately secure detention.