Conditions of Detention

International norms prescribe standards   for most aspects of prison life including: accommodation, sanitation, lighting, ventilation hygiene, food and recreation.

Many low income countries or those affected by conflict struggle to collect adequate revenue to provide the infrastructure, services or staffing that are deemed essential to meeting standards. However some reforms  need not be expensive.

Prisons in many locations have made good use of agricultural or animal husbandry options on their land offering additional sustenance for those involved and providing opportunities for work and recreation.

Prisoner peer to peer teaching uses the skills of prisoners to assist others in academic and vocational fields.

Such initiatives can cost relatively little, mainly requiring commitment  and  organisation from the prison staff. Similarly, outside interest groups can be encouraged to provide a range of  goods and services to prisoners.

Whether it is clothing or soap, vocational training or  counselling, such contributions do not incur costs to the prison administration. Relying on outside contributions to meet the basic needs of prisoners should not however be the norm.

The duty of care assumed by the state when it deprives a person of their liberty requires them to ensure that such needs are properly met.
Prison systems may also take policy and practice steps to implement inexpensive options that can help them fulfil their objectives.

For example , open prison camps  can be  used for prisoners who have served a large part of long sentences, but require a different environment, with less security and staffing, and employment opportunities. The State Government of Rajasthan runs seven such prisons, where prisoners’ families come to live with them and the prisoners work independently in the community.

One under populated prison  in Nigeria still had grossly overcrowded cells. A perimeter fence in one section of the prison meant many cells were not in use. At very small expense the fence was fixed, allowing the prisoners to be dispersed across the accommodation.

Further Information
Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Habitat in Prisons ICRC,. Click here.