Thursday, April 2, 2009
Sarkin on Prisons in Africa
Legal historians working on the history of prisons will have an interest in Prisons in Africa: An Evaluation from a Human Rights Perspective, a new essay by Jeremy J. Sarkin, Hofstra University School of Law. This law reform piece includes a section placing the origins of prison systems in Africa in colonialism. The essay is forthcoming in Sur International Human Rights Journal (2009). Here's the abstract: While prisons in Africa are often considered the worst in the world many other prisons systems are worse off in terms of violence, overcrowding and a host of other problems. This is not to argue that African prisons are human rights friendly. Many are in a deficient condition and their practices are at odds with human rights standards. However, prisons in many parts of the world are in crisis. Never before have there been so many problems within penal systems and such large numbers of people in institutions of incarceration. This article examines the historical development of African prisons from colonial times and considers the legacy that colonialism has left in prisons on the continent. The article also examines a range of issues in prisons throughout Africa including pretrial detention, overcrowding, resources and governance, women and children in prison, and rehabilitation. A substantial amount of space is devoted to the reforms that are occurring across the continent, and recommendations are made with regard to what further reforms are necessary. The role of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights as well as the Special Rapporteur on Prisons and Conditions of Detention in Africa are also considered.