National Legislation

In many countries the legislation governing prisons dates back very many years, often to colonial times. In Bangladesh, for example prisons are still operated according to the 1894 Bengal jail code, amended in the 1920’s. Its highly detailed provisions are antiquated and often irrelevant, and  international human rights standards are not incorporated.

It is true that  many programmes for improving prisons can be undertaken without legislative changes and indeed modernising prison law does not itself guarantee that reforms will follow in practice. But the process of developing a modern prison law can provide an important opportunity for civil society organisations to get involved in policy debates about the use and practice of imprisonment. Once enacted Prison law can often be used as a basis for prisoners and those concerned with their well being to advocate for change for example through litigation.

Examples of prison laws have been compiled by Penal Reform International, click here to view them.

The US Institute for Peace is currently finalising a Model Detention Code for Post Conflict states, click here for more information.