The UN Tokyo rules require all countries  to develop non custodial measures within their legal systems to  reduce the use of imprisonment and to rationalise criminal justice policies.

The Tokyo rules lists as the  kinds of penalties that states should consider ; these include conditional discharges, status penalties, economic sanctions like fines, confiscation, restitution, suspended or deferred sentences, house arrest, probation or judicial supervision, community service/unpaid work, attendance centres, drug treatment, hospital order.

Around the world countries have tried all kinds of alternatives some based on the list others not. Disturbingly there are still some countries which use physical punishments such as whipping and the cutting of limbs. In some countries, Penal Codes include provisions for severance of limbs and whipping.

In other countries, particularly former Soviet ones there are provisions for offenders to undertake work for the community effectively by having parts of their salaries deducted. In high income countries there are a variety of alternatives such as electronic monitoring  drug treatment and testing  and a variety of psychological programmes.

In parts of Africa there was surge of enthusiasm in the 1990’s in respect of Community Service in particular. The Kadoma Declaration issued following a conference looking at the initial success of the schemes established in Zimbabwe noted that community service is in conformity with traditions of dealing with offenders and healing the damage caused by crime and recommended a network of national committees in a number of countries to spread best practices, supported by the UN a year later.

4 years on the Ouagadougou conference on accelerating prison reform contained more detailed prescriptions for reducing the use of prison through diversion of minor cases from prosecution using traditional restorative approaches,  reducing  pre –trial detention through  the deployment of  paralegals  and using  proven   sentencing alternatives such as community service   partially or fully suspended sentences, probation and correctional supervision.

Options of diversion from pre-trial detention   or from a sentence of imprisonment should be given particular consideration in the case of people who will be particularly  vulnerable in  prison- for example , those with poor health, juveniles, and women with dependent children .
Further Information on Alternatives in Afghanistan, click here and here

Building Support for Alternatives . Click here

Alternatives to Imprisonment & Restorative justice, UNODC. Click here