The Presentation of the Standards of Treatment for Female Inmates to the United Nations Forum
Having succeeded in gaining recognition for the Kamlangjai Project in Thailand, HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha has brought the Project to the international community during the 17th meeting of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) held on 14-18 April 2008 at the UN Office in Vienna, Austria. In that meeting HRH delivered an opening speech on the problem of violence against women and the assistance to be given to them. HRH also presented her works on the Kamlangjai Project at the United Nations meeting and made the Thai word “Kamlangjai” be known to the international community to mean here as loving and care that mankind should have towards one another.
HRH had given the equivalent word in English as “Inspire” to mean that everybody can be an inspiration towards one another. HRH was also the keynote speaker in a parallel session on “Treatment of Female Inmates in the Correctional Institution” which Thailand co-organized with United Nations on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). HRH’s speech touched upon Thailand’s view on good practices and the strategy in solving the problem of violence against women including Thai legal measures in preventing and eradicating violence against women.
In addition HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha also participated in the meeting to consider a draft decision on “Strengthening crime prevention and criminal justice responses to violence against women and girls” which Thailand co-sponsored with the Republic of Namibia. The meeting had approved the said draft decision and agreed on having Thailand as the host to organize the meeting of specialists to review the said strategies and measures in Bangkok within 2009.
ELFI Project (Enhancing Lives of Female Inmates)
Women in Prison: the Difference ... the Gaps ...and the Solutions
Women in Prison: the Gaps that Have Been Overlooked
The problem of women in prison or female inmates is not confined to Thailand alone. It is a growing problem in other countries around the world as well. A study done by the International Center for Prison Studies, King’s College, in London, in 2006, found that countries having the highest number of female inmates are the United States (183,000 inmates), the People’s Republic of China (71,280 inmates), Russia (55,400 inmates) and Thailand (28,450 inmates). Not only the number of female inmates is increasing at an alarming rate, the proportion of the increase is higher than that of male inmates. Even more pressing than the problem of number is the fact these women are sent to prisons that have been built to accommodate male inmates, or even prisons which were built specifically for female inmates do not offer adequate facilities for them. These prisons were not designed to accommodate women’s special needs. Female inmates also do not have access to services such as education, rehabilitation or vocational training by prison officials which has created a lot of problems for them. Moreover, existing regulations are often inappropriate for the management of female inmates. This has posed a great challenge to all those concerned with the caring for these inmates including policy makers, operators and agencies/ organizations both at national and international levels which are involved in looking after female inmates as part of the criminal justice process and human rights.
Even existing international rules and recommendations on the treatment of female inmates such as the UN Standards of Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which member countries have used as basic standards for prison administration and treatment of inmates, only briefly mentions the treatment to be given to female inmates and in general term, resulting in inappropriate treatment of a large number of female inmates including discrimination and human rights violation both in respect of women’s rights and human dignity.
Women in Prison ... Where are their Suffering?
Initial research on the problems and the needs of female inmates in Thailand and abroad finds that the main problems faced by these women can be categorized into 3 groups:
1. The problem of unsuitable place of detention and supervisory personnel who look after the inmates. The findings indicate that women offenders are more often put in prisons far away from home and family than male inmates due to the fact that there are fewer prisons for women than those for men. The long distance makes it more difficult for female inmates to keep contact with their families and children because of the high travelling expenses. Moreover, economic constraints mean fewer visits from families, which have an adverse effect on the women’s state of mind as well as on familial relationship, particularly on the development of young children. Apart from this, women are often placed in prisons meant for men, which have strict rules and forbid contact with the outside world or are detained in high security prisons rather than low security ones even though the women have been given a low risk category. Such incorrect categorization of these women has affected their experience in prison in every aspect, including freedom of movement, frequency and type of visits with children and families, and opportunity for education and vocational training.
2. The problem of the lack of understanding of women’s different needs which has deprived these women of opportunity to receive adequate basic services or welfare, including basic health care both physically and mentally. This is due to the fact that health and sanitation facilities in prisons have been designed for men prisoners and their needs. Consequently, gynecological medical treatment such as checking for breast cancer is rarely available in prison. In addition to basic health services, women have special personal needs such as menstruation, menopause, or sexual health. These women’s special needs should be taken care of by nurses and medical personals trained specifically in female health care, including in gynecology. However, studies have found that most health and sanitation facilities and services in prisons do not recognize the special needs of women. It is often seen that pregnant inmates lack or are provided with inadequate medical services both prior to and after birth. Babies are not properly cared for, and mothers lack information about giving birth and child care. There is hardly any preparation for separating mothers from their new born babies. While mothers are separated from their babies, most prisons do not have private rooms for babies/children to visit their imprisoned mothers. Such a situation has led to mental suffering among inmate mothers and also affects the child development.
Moreover, most prisons do not provided any special services for elderly inmates, or especially those who were victims of domestic violence that created mental problems, or women having menopause, or medical history related to gynecological problems such as breast cancer. Nor can young female inmates access appropriate medical services. There is little recognition of the fact that these young inmates might have been physically and sexually abused prior to their imprisonment. They also often lack the opportunity for education and vocational training or receive less welfare. This is because most facilities have been arranged for older female or young male inmates. As to female inmates who are physically or mentally handicapped, they often do not receive sufficient attention as far as accommodations, equipment or areas specially designed for handicap people are concerned. For those who are mentally handicapped, they either receive too much or too little medication and no medical advice nor mental rehabilitation. In many countries, cases involving female inmates who are suffering from mental illnesses such as stress, depression, paranoid, schizophrenia, or suicide are increasing at an alarming rate and in higher proportion than in the case of male inmates. There are also other groups of female inmates with special needs such as foreign inmates and tribal women who have difficulty in understanding different language and culture and have also stopped communicating with their families. Female inmates who are incarcerated in armed or areas of conflict tend to be sent to faraway prisons which are designed for men. As a result, they are deprived of privacy, security and proper health care as well as physical and spiritual support from loved ones. They also suffer from improper and discriminatory treatment which violates their rights as women and human dignity.
3. The problem of discrimination against female inmates that is the violation of human rights, human dignity and the rights of women. Studies have found that the majority of female inmates tend to fall victim to sexual violation and violence, abusive body searches, denial of access to education or rehabilitation and vocational training necessary for reintegration into society including programs to prepare them prior to and support after release. While in some cases, they might have access to these programs, most of them are not designed to respond to women’s needs or family conditions, especially in cases where mothers are the main supporter or sole provider for the children.
Towards Justice for Female Inmates: Recommendations for actions to be taken by governmental agencies and good practices in caring for women in prisons
Studies reflecting the problems of women in prisons have generated recommendation on the prison reforms to respond to the needs of female inmates. However, prison reforms may not be the only way or adequately solve all the problems that these women are facing. Instead, the Government must 1) find alternatives to replace imprisonment of women who commit crimes; 2) if it is necessary to imprison them, plans have to be made for these women from their first day of receiving the imprisonment sentence to ensure that they will not recommit crimes after their release which will in turn increase the number of female inmates; and, 3) find ways and means to support female inmates in reintegrating into society after their release, and should reintegration be not successful, backup and contingency plans have to be prepared to respond to the problems quickly and effectively. Cooperation with non-governmental organizations and concerned volunteer groups at the national and international levels need to be acquired. In doing so, it may be necessary to make specific recommendations for treatment of female inmates such as proposing further recommendations for UN Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Female Inmates in order to promote these Recommendations as effective strategies. It is gratifying that countries in many regions have recognized the problems faced by female inmates and have started to take appropriate measures in response to their needs. For example, in Europe, German prisons have been a model for familial visits and in response to the need of pregnant inmates. In Asia, prisons in Yemen, not only support female inmates in education and vocational training, but also give them opportunity to progress. In the United States there are examples of good practices in giving support after the release from the work of Duval Community Correctional Center in cooperation with the NGO and private organization which recognizes the importance of life after release of female inmates, and Elizabeth Fry Center in San Francisco which also give importance to former inmates who are mothers and their children.
ELFI: the Ray of Hope for Female Inmates All over the World
There are a number of physical differences between women and men. Traditions and social expectations have imposed so many roles on women that many people think they become tiresome burdens. However, the hardships some women feel they are facing with can hardly be compared to the hardships imposed on female inmates, particularly pregnant inmates and those having children living in prison with them. It is true that these women committed crimes so they should be put in jail, and it is the place where there is naturally very limited comfort. But those who made mistakes should be given another opportunity from society to stand up again and be given appropriate treatment in accordance with human rights.
In the case of Thailand, it is fortunate that Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha has since 2006 graciously initiated the Kamlangjai Project to give assistance to inmates during imprisonment and after the release, which has received enthusiastic cooperation from the government sector. The next step in the operation of this Project was to set out a roadmap for the treatment of female inmates beyond the issues of welfare and place of detention that would lead to development of an international strategy and recommendation for UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Female Inmates as initiated by HRH under the ELFI project or “Enhancing Lives of Female Inmates” which aims at raising the standards of treatment of people who have been affected by the justice process in a systematic and sustainable manner.
ELFI is an international project that will lead to a change in the standards of treatment of female inmates all over the world, since the UN Rules for prisoners have been in force for more than 50 years, and are therefore not conducive to adapt to the present social conditions and should be modernized to respond to specific needs of female inmates.
Thailand received worldwide admiration for the Kamlangjai Project after its public debut on the international scene in Vienna in 2008. This was the starting point for HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha to push Thailand to promote greater international awareness and improve standards specifically for the treatment of female inmates. HRH then started the Project to enhance lives of female inmates or ELFI which is abbreviated from “Enhancing Lives of Female Inmates” in July 2009.
To implement ELFI, the Ministry of Justice organized an Expert Roundtable Meeting to brainstorm in drafting rules for female inmates in Bangkok on 2-4 February 2009. Experts on Corrections from various countries, international organizations and private agencies were invited to participate. The Meeting finalized a Draft United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders to supplement the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, 1955.
Subsequently, HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha, as Leader of the Thai Delegation, attended the 18th Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice held at the UN Office in Vienna, Austria, from 16-24 April 2009, to present the ELFI project and draft of the Rules. HRH delivered a speech at the opening ceremony to the meeting on the ELFI Project in part as follows:
“... While the number of female inmates has been increased continuously, they are still being neglected in the correctional institutions. Although the UN Standard Minimum Rules of 1955 apply to all prisoners without discrimination, we still have to admit that the Rules do not take adequate account of the specific needs of the female inmates ...”
Statement of HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha
At the opening ceremony of the 18th Session
Of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice
Afterwards, HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha, and Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) jointly opened an exhibition on ELFI and participated in the consideration of a draft resolution proposed by Thailand on the treatment of female inmates which was unanimously approved by the Commission with the following countries as co-sponsors: Brazil, the Czech Republic on behalf of EU, USA, Canada, Japan, People’s Republic of China, the Philippines, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, South Africa and Sudan.
The Structure of the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules)
The objective of the Bangkok Rules is to set out the international standards for the exclusive treatment of female inmates in prisons such as health and sanitation, sensitivity of female inmates in the prison, the care for children being born to the inmates, etc. of which the structure of the Rules can be divided into 4 parts as follows:
Part I Rules of General Application covering the management of prisons in general and applicable to women offenders under all categories of detention and cases, be they civil or criminal, including women who are in custody under safety measures or detention measures.
Part II Rules Applicable to Special Categories covering the categorization and the treatment of inmates in each category, such as, inmates who were victims of violence, pregnant inmates, inmates of indigenous races or ethnic minority groups, etc.
Part III Non-custodial Measures applicable to the enforcement measures on women offenders who commit misdemeanor and those who have physical conditions unfit for imprisonment such as young girls or pregnant offenders. This part of the Rules is applicable from the time of investigation up to post sentencing.
Part IV Research, Planning, Evaluation and Public Awareness Raising dealing with researches on relevant behavior which lead to criminal acts by women and studies on possible effects of imprisonment on female inmates and their children. In addition, the Rules stipulate that activities aimed at reducing recidivism be organized as part of the effort to return good people to society. All these activities must be publicized to the public with cooperation from the media.
HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha presented the ELFI Project to the UN Forum in Nairobi, Kenya
On 9 September 2009, HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha visited the UN Office in Nairobi, Kenya, to participate in the Preparatory Meeting of the 12th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in the African Region with the reception from Mr. Achim Steiner, Director-General of the UN Office in Nairobi. HRH talked about her first visit to Africa and her interest in the various activities of the UN Office in Nairobi. Furthermore, HRH discussed the Thai proposal to drive for the United Nations rules on the treatment of female inmates or Enhancing Lives of Female Inmates (ELFI) At the preparatory meeting, HRH made a statement reiterating the importance of Thailand’s proposal on ELFI and the drive for the adoption for the United Nations rules on the treatments of women prisoners or ELFI to drive for the adoption by the Commission which could then be presented to national and international forum for further development into improved standards for the treatment of female inmates.
HRH attended the Council on Human Rights in Geneva
Later on Monday, 14 September 2009 HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha visited the UN Office in Geneva to participate in the 12th Council on Human Rights. The Council on Human Rights is among the 7 principal international organizations in the UN system. It was established by a resolution of the 60th UN General Assembly in 2006 to replace the former Commission on Human Rights with a view to develop human rights mechanisms that will be used as a working framework and to respond more effectively to new challenges. Country members were reduced from 53 to 47 countries spreading among various regions. At this meeting, discussions took place under 7 main items such as report by the UN Commissioner on Human Rights and consideration of human rights situations in various countries. Statements were made by several high level delegates, namely, HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha, Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights of Sri Lanka, and Assistant Secretary of State in charge of International Organizations of the United States.
On this occasion, HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha delivered a speech on the development on the quality of life of the female inmates or ELFI which was an important issue in the justice process and was related to the human rights issue as follows:
“In respect, I wish to bring to the attention of the Council the project called “Enhancing Lives of Female Inmates” or “ELFI.” It aims at calibrating United Nations standards and norms for the better treatment of women in prisons. Thailand undertook to develop the “Draft United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders.” The open-ended intergovernmental expert group meeting to be held in Bangkok in November this year will open the way for the tangibility in this regard.”
In addition, HRH reiterated Thailand’s support for human rights, which was considered a high priority. This could be seen from the cooperation at both ASEAN and international levels such as the support for the Universal Periodic Review mechanism or UPR of the Council on Human Rights which will review and evaluates human rights activities of the 192 UN member countries on an equal basis. For Thailand, there would be a review and evaluation at the end of 2011. HRH also referred to Thailand’s decision to seek membership in the Council on Human Rights in 2010 for a three years term for 2010-2013. In conclusion HRH called for global awareness on the need to develop standards for the treatment of female inmates as follows:
“From the First Crime Congress held in Geneva in 1955 to its twelfth session to be held in Salvador, Brazil, next year, the link between the respect for human rights and the rule of law has never been more evident. We must recognize that gender sensitivity is the new rule of the game. After all, the road towards enhancing the lives of female inmates is a test of our political will. We must work together to ensure that the future of women prisoners can be brighter.”
HRH then opened the exhibition “Inspiring Women’s Rights in Prison” together with the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Chairperson of the Council on Human Rights. UN Representatives, delegations and foreign press attached to the United Nations had shown great interest in the Exhibition. This Exhibition was organized with a view to create international awareness of people in prisons especially the female inmates.
From the First Crime Congress held in Geneva in 1955 until today, there were no specific rules for female inmates. HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha then realizes that there were group of inmates who had not received adequate opportunity, especially female inmates whose number has been growing. Consequently, HRH decided to initiate the Kamlangjai Project in 2006 in order to make these inmates realize that there were people willing to give them opportunity as long as they respected the rights of others and, thus, recidivism would be reduced after their return to society. In three years of operation, a number of projects have been organized such as the training of pregnant inmates in preparation for birth and care for their babies including the vocational training. Given the success of
the Kamlangjai Project, HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha proceeded to introduce the term “Kamlangjai” to be known to the international community as mutual support among human beings. HRH has also given the English term as “Inspire” to mean that everyone can be an inspiration for one another. This was the beginning of HRH’s initiative for the international standards that should be taken into account by every country, and they should be put into real practice by implementing the project to develop the quality of life of female inmates or ELFI in 2008 with a view to push for the adoption of the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders to improve the treatment of female inmates, which is the right that one human being should receive these basic principles suitably and appropriately in order not to receive double punishment by society and they should be able to return to be part of society again.
HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha as Special Keynote Speaker at the Parallel Event ELFI
On Tuesday, 15 September 2009, HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha was the Special Keynote Speaker at the parallel event Enhancing Lives of Female Inmates (ELFI) organized by the Permanent Mission of Thailand to the UN Office in Geneva during the 12th Council on Human Rights. In her remarks, HRH referred to female inmates who are often forgotten under the justice process, who did not receive treatment and was not adequately provided with the basic necessities due to gender sensitivity. As a consequence, HRH had initiated the Kamlangjai Project. Moreover, recognizing the lack of international standards specifically related to female inmates, HRH was inspired to initiate a project to improve the quality of life of female inmates all over the world. Gist of HRH’s Remarks is as follows:
“When Thailand presented our project at the 17th session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna last year, this triggered our critical thoughts on the subject. Apparently, we have to recognize that there is a gender gap in the 1955 Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners or the SMR. Adopted more than 50 years ago, the SMR may not necessarily keep up with developments in our fast changing world. Surely, they do not draw sufficient attention to the specific needs of women prisoners. However, this is not a problem for Thailand alone. Many countries in the world are all struggling to cope with how to approach the issue of the treatment of women prisoners in the most effective way. As this group of prison population has increased worldwide, it is imperative that we bring more clarity to considerations that apply to their treatment.”
HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha Delivered a Speech at the 11th Meeting of the International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA)
On 26 October 2009, HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha attended the opening of the 11th Meeting of the International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA), where she was the Special Keynote Speaker, at Hilton Hotel, Bridgetown, Barbados. This meeting was organized by the ICPA in collaboration with the Department of Corrections of Barbados to give opportunity for administrators and corrections officials and interested people to exchange views and find the right approaches to various issues that can contribute to the improvement of prison administration including treatment of prisoners. As the Special Keynote Speaker, HRH delivered a speech entitled “New Horizons in the Treatment of Women Off enders” where she presented the Project to improve the quality of life of female inmates or ELFI which concerns the Draft UN Rules on the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders so that the international community would be aware of the specific needs of women prisoners, having gender sensitivities, since the 1955 United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMR) did not adequately provide specific rules for the treatment of female inmates.
The International Corrections and Prisons Association Presented HRH with the Highest President’s Award
On 28 October 2009, HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha attended the Awarding Ceremony at the 11th Meeting of the International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA). The ICPA Awards are given to individuals or agencies with outstanding work in support of the Association which aims at promoting knowledge, understanding and professionalism among administrators and officials involved in corrections work all over the world. The highest Award is the President’s Award, which this year is presented to HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha. HRH would be the first Asian who received the Award for her work to improve the quality of life of female inmates. It has been ever since her graduation that HRH had determination to provide assistance, since she has been realized the sufferings of the female inmates and the children being born to them. As a consequence, HRH initiated the Kamlangjai Project in 2006 to let them realize that there are still people who are willing to give them opportunities, provide them with moral support so they can win over their obstacles and return to live together in society. HRH had instructed the Red Cross College of Nursing to organize training for pregnant inmates under the “Quality Pregnancy” and “Raising Good People Starting from the First Year” courses, which became the model courses for pregnant inmates in correctional institutions and prisons. Apart from this, there are also vocational training and care for health and sanitation of elderly inmates.
From the success of the Kamlangjai Project in caring for female inmates and children being born to them in Thailand, HRH then initiated the project to improve the quality of life of female inmates or ELFI in 2008 to draw the international community’s attention to the need for improvement in the treatment of female inmates by preparing the Thai proposal on the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders to be presented to the United Nations forum to exchange views and opinions to be taken into account for the revision of the Proposal to make it an international standards that can be applied by all countries. In this regard, HRH received the President’s Award from Mr. Tony Cameron, President of the Association and made an acceptance speech as follows:
“This Award reflects a new horizon in the treatment of women off enders and inmates. It also sends a signal to the international community on the importance of the gentle treatment to the female inmates in respect to correctional work. At this meeting Thailand has presented the proposal to improve the quality of life of female inmates or ELFI to create awareness on the parties involved to the fact that international support will lead to concrete changes and will set out new standards at the global level. Moreover, I am grateful by the ICPA and all the members for giving support to the Thai draft proposal. I do firmly believe that our cooperation will give inspiration to female inmates all over the world, so they can have a better life in the future”
HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha Presented the ELFI Project at the Meeting of the ASC
On 5 November 2009, HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha attended the 61st Meeting of the American Society of Criminology or ASC, which was an academic forum, to exchange and disseminate information on criminology to keep up with the change in the modern world. Lecturers from leading American universities including students, practitioners and academicians in various fields of criminology and criminal justice policy from many countries participated in the meeting under the theme “Criminology and Criminal Justice Policy” from 4-7 November 2009. On this occasion, HRH had given a speech under the title, “Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Women in Prison: A United Nations Effort that Effects all Prisons,” in which she presented the Project to improve the quality of life of female inmates or “ELFI” to share the views and seek allies to support Thailand’s Proposal in the framework of the United Nations. HRH underlined the problems of growing number of women in prisons and the inadequate care given to them. For this reason, HRH decided to help the inmates and children attached to them so that they would be able to lead a good life and earn a living after the release. The following is an excerpt from HRH’s remarks:
“ Thailand does not claim to be the model for a successful approach to the treatment of female inmates as there are still rooms to be further improved. The Kamlangjai Project is just one of the examples to show that we can promote the practice that takes into account the gender sensitivities of female inmates in Thailand, and I firmly believe in the value of “demonstrating leadership by being a good model”. Every country can contribute to the improvement of the treatment of female inmates in their own countries. However, in order to make that approach be more effective and more efficient, we need to set up new format of international standards and criteria in this regard.
At the next step, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime will collaborate with Thailand in organizing an International Expert Group Meeting to negotiate the contents of the Draft Rules in Bangkok on 23-26 November 2009. Should the Group be able to finalize the Draft Rules, Thailand will table it at the 12th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Salvador, Brazil in April 2010. At that stage, Thailand will lobby for international support of the Draft Rules to ensure its passing onto the UN General Assembly for the official adoption this same year.”
The current annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology or ASC under the theme “Criminology and Criminal Justice policy” focused on several key issues such as corrections and punishment, international criminology, including women and crime. Over 600 issues were discussed in sub groups with crimes as major problems for every country and have become more complex. Criminology is essential in identifying root causes, including the preventive measures and solutions as well as the treatment of offenders. It involves several agencies concerned with criminal justice process, namely, the police, the prosecutors, the courts, and the corrections department. It is also necessary to develop policies and approaches to give justice to all parties, including the allowance of the offenders to become good citizens and live peacefully in society.
On this occasion, HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha exchanged views on the treatment of women offenders that differs from country to country. In some countries, even committing a small offence, it can put one under the justice process and end up in imprisonment. But in many others, alternative measures are taken in place of imprisonment in order to rehabilitate the off enders rather than punishment, such as probation, sentence suspension and doing public work. It is the same with the treatment of female inmates that many countries tend to use the decrease in numbers of repeated offences by female inmates as a key indicator on the success of the Corrections’ policy. However, they do not give adequate importance on the use of international standards and criteria that take into account the inmates’ human rights. Therefore, there should be more balanced use of the policy on the treatment of women than it is as of today.
Revising the Draft Rules
On 23-26 November 2009, Thai Ministry of Justice hosted the Expert Group Meeting to prepare the Draft Rules. The Meeting agreed to call this document “The Bangkok Rules” to reflect the leading role of Thailand in pressing for international criteria in this regard.
Towards the United Nations General Assembly
At the 12th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice held in Salvador, Brazil, from 12-19 April 2010, the Meeting had negotiated and adopted the Salvador Declaration to be the political will and vision of member states on such issues for the next 5 years, and also endorse the Bangkok Rules in paragraph 50 of the Declaration.
The final stage of the ELFI work was the 65th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, USA, since it would be the forum to approve and officially adopt the Bangkok Rules. HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha attended this session and presided over the opening of the ELFI exhibition under the theme “Standard Minimum Rules: A New Horizon for Women Prisoners.” Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General, jointly gave a remark at the opening ceremony.
The Success of ELFI
Finally, on 21 December 2010, the 65th UN General Assembly (UNGA) had adopted the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders known as the Bangkok Rules.
Furthering the Success of ELFI
The Project “ELFI” was the first offensive diplomatic maneuver in the history of Thai legal process where Thailand took the leading role in pushing for the adoption of the Bangkok Rules as one of the international laws. It brings pride to all Thai people to have the jurist princess who is highly capable and is a beacon lighting the way for international acceptance of the Thai legal process.
Nevertheless, the adoption of the Bangkok Rules was just a beginning as there are still a lot of procedures and activities that Thailand as the main sponsor for these Rules needs to play the leading role again in furthering the success of ELFI by pressing for national implementation of the Bangkok Rules by UN member countries, including Thailand, to improve standards of treatment of female inmates in a sustainable manner.
United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Off enders: THE BANGKOK RULES
The Bangkok Rules And the Creation of an Understanding among the Working Officers
On 22-23 January 2011, HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha chaired a seminar project: “Workshop on the Creation and Understanding and Building a Network in the Kamlangjai Project under HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha’s Initiatives” at Bandaya Hotel, Lipae Island, Satun Province. HRH also led the participants, lecturers, administrators, officials of the Permanent Secretary office including representatives of Courts of Justice and Office of the Attorney-General on a field trip to Tarutao Prison at Talohval Bay, Tarutao National Park, Langu District, Satun Province. Part of HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha’s remarks to the participants is as follows:
“I am very pleased to meet with the Kamlangjai Team at today’s Workshop, which will discuss on the work of the Kamlangjai Project and the Bangkok Rules that we have worked and fought together to press for its adoption at the United Nations. Thailand will implement these Rules in the corrections works befitting the name “the Bangkok Rules,” which is the name of our Capital with the hope that the Bangkok Rules will be useful to corrections work. This achievement does indeed belong to the Department of Corrections. It has brought pride to this Department. Their outstanding works have been distinctively shown to the world and Thailand and in the eyes of other government agencies. It has been known that corrections work is very important, and it is the work in the last process of justice system. It has a duty to provide training, correct and rehabilitate the off enders to be able to return to society as good persons, which is considered a difficult and tiring job. The Bangkok Rules may be one of the stimuli for the job to be done, or those who perform their duties will not be forgotten by in the same way that inmates may not be forgotten either. Some of the provisions in the Bangkok Rules have already been implemented by the Department of Corrections which shows that we are not lagging behind, and what we have undertaken is not less honorable or comparable to other countries. We have also found that Departments of Corrections all over the world face similar problems, namely, lack of budget and personnel, too many prisoners to take care of which makes their work be not flexible enough. The Bangkok Rules originated from our presentation of the problems to the United Nations so they can realize that it is really an important problem, which make everybody join hands in expressing one’s opinion. And we are here today at this workshop to share our opinions on what need to be done now under these Rules, we are meeting in a workshop today to see what can be done under these Rules, the things to be improved, and where the obstacles are. I, therefore, wish that all of you make an effort to share your opinions.”
Remarks of HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha
At the Workshop held at the Tarutao National Park,
22 January 2011
United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules)
In order for the principle of non-discrimination, embodied in rule 6 of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners to be put into practice, account shall be taken of the distinctive needs of women prisoners in the application of the Rules. Providing for such needs in order to accomplish substantial gender equality shall not be regarded as discriminatory.
1. Adequate attention shall be paid to the admission procedures for women and children, due to their particular vulnerability at this time. Newly arrived women prisoners shall be provided with facilities to contact their relatives; access to legal advice; information about prison rules and regulations, the prison regime and where to seek help when in need in a language that they understand; and, in the case of foreign nationals, access to consular representatives as well.
2. Prior to or on admission, women with caretaking responsibilities for children shall be permitted to make arrangements for those children, including the possibility of a reasonable suspension of detention, taking into account the best interests of the children.
1. The number and personal details of the children of a woman being admitted to prison shall be recorded at the time of admission. The records shall include, without prejudicing the rights of the mother, at least the names of the children, their ages and, if not accompanying the mother, their location and custody or guardianship status
2. All information relating to the children’s identity shall be kept confidential, and the use of such information shall always comply with the requirement to take into account the best interests of the children.
Women prisoners shall be allocated, to the extent possible, to prisons close to their home or place of social rehabilitation, taking account of their caretaking responsibilities, as well as the individual woman’s preference and the availability of appropriate programmes and services.
The accommodation of women prisoners shall have facilities and materials required to meet women’s specific hygiene needs, including sanitary towels provided free of charge and a regular supply of water to be made available for the personal care of children and women, in particular women involved in cooking and those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or menstruating.
The health screening of women prisoners shall include comprehensive screening to determine primary health care needs, and also shall determine:
(a) The presence of sexually transmitted diseases or blood-borne diseases; and, depending on risk factors, women prisoners may also be offered testing for HIV, with pre- and post-test counselling;
(b) Mental health care needs, including post-traumatic stress disorder and risk of suicide and self-harm;
(c) The reproductive health history of the woman prisoner, including current or recent pregnancies, childbirth and any related reproductive health issues;
(d) The existence of drug dependency;
(e) Sexual abuse and other forms of violence that may have been suffered prior to admission.
1. If the existence of sexual abuse or other forms of violence before or during detention is diagnosed, the woman prisoner shall be informed of her right to seek recourse from judicial authorities. The woman prisoner should be fully informed of the procedures and steps involved. If the woman prisoner agrees to take legal action, appropriate staff shall be informed and immediately refer the case to the competent authority for investigation. Prison authorities shall help such women to access legal assistance.
2. Whether or not the woman chooses to take legal action, prison authorities shall endeavour to ensure that she has immediate access to specialized psychological support or counselling.
3. Specific measures shall be developed to avoid any form of retaliation against those making such reports or taking legal action.
The right of women prisoners to medical confidentiality, including specifically the right not to share information and not to undergo screening in relation to their reproductive health history, shall be respected at all times.
If the woman prisoner is accompanied by a child, that child shall also undergo health screening, preferably by a child health specialist, to determine any treatment and medical needs. Suitable health care, at least equivalent to that in the community, shall be provided.
1. Gender-specific health-care services at least equivalent to those available in the community shall be provided to women prisoners.
2. If a woman prisoner requests that she be examined or treated by a woman physician or nurse, a woman physician or nurse shall be made available to the extent possible, except for situations requiring urgent medical intervention. If a male medical practitioner undertakes the examination contrary to the wishes of the woman prisoner, a woman staff member shall be present during the examination.
1. Only medical staff shall be present during medical examinations unless the doctor is of the view that exceptional circumstances exist or the doctor requests a member of the prison staff to be present for security reasons or the woman prisoner specifically requests the presence of a member of staff as indicated in rule 10, paragraph 2 above.
2. If it is necessary for non-medical prison staff to be present during medical examinations, such staff should be women and examinations shall be carried out in a manner that safeguards privacy, dignity and confidentiality.
Individualized, gender-sensitive, trauma-informed and comprehensive mental health care and rehabilitation programmes shall be made available for women prisoners with mental health care needs in prison or in non-custodial settings.
Prison staff shall be made aware of times when women may feel particular distress, so as to be sensitive to their situation and ensure that the women are provided appropriate support.
In developing responses to HIV/AIDS in penal institutions, programmes and services shall be responsive to the specific needs of women, including prevention of mother-to-child transmission. In this context, prison authorities shall encourage and support the development of initiatives on HIV prevention, treatment and care, such as peer-based education.
Prison health services shall provide or facilitate specialized treatment programmes designed for women substance abusers, taking into account prior victimization, the special needs of pregnant women and women with children, as well as their diverse cultural backgrounds.
Developing and implementing strategies, in consultation with mental health care and social welfare services, to prevent suicide and self-harm among women prisoners and providing appropriate, gender-specific and specialized support to those at risk shall be part of a comprehensive policy of mental health care in women’ prisons.
Women prisoners shall receive education and information about preventive health care measures, including from HIV, sexually transmitted diseases and other, blood-borne diseases, as well as gender-specific health conditions.
Preventive health care measures of particular relevance to women,such as Papanicolaou tests and screening for breast and gynaecological cancer, shall be offered to women prisoners on an equal basis with women of the same age in the community.
Effective measures shall be taken to ensure that women prisoners’ dignity and respect are protected during personal searches, which shall only be carried out by women staff who have been properly trained in appropriate searching methods and in accordance with established procedures.
Alternative screening methods, such as scans, shall be developed to replace strip searches and invasive body searches, in order to avoid the harmful psychological and possible physical impact of invasive body searches.
Prison staff shall demonstrate competence, professionalism and sensitivity and shall preserve respect and dignity when searching both children in prison with their mother and children visiting prisoners.
Punishment by close confinement or disciplinary segregation shall not be applied to pregnant women, women with infants and breastfeeding mothers in prison.
Disciplinary sanctions for women prisoners shall not include a prohibition of family contact, especially with children.
Instruments of restraint shall never be used on women during labour, during birth and immediately after birth.
1. Women prisoners who report abuse shall be provided immediate protection, support and counselling, and their claims shall be investigated by competent and independent authorities, with full respect for the principle of confidentiality. Protection measures shall take into account specifically the risks of retaliation.
2. Women prisoners, who have been subjected to sexual abuse, and especially those who have become pregnant as a result, shall receive appropriate medical advice and counselling and shall be provided with the requisite physical and mental health care, support and legal aid.
3. In order to monitor the conditions of detention and treatment of women prisoners, inspectorates, visiting or monitoring boards or supervisory bodies shall include women members.
Women prisoners’ contact with their families, including their children, their children’s guardians and legal representatives shall be encouraged and facilitated by all reasonable means. Where possible, measures shall be taken to counterbalance disadvantages faced by women detained in institutions located far from their homes.
Where conjugal visits are allowed, women prisoners shall be able to exercise this right on an equal basis with men.
Visits involving children shall take place in an environment that is conducive to a positive visiting experience, including with regard to staff attitudes, and shall allow open contact between mother and child. Visits involving extended contact with children should be encouraged, where possible.
Capacity-building for staff employed in women’s prisons shall enable them to address the special social reintegration requirements of women prisoners and manage safe and rehabilitative facilities. Capacity-building measures for women staff shall also include access to senior positions with key responsibility for the development of policies and strategies relating to the treatment and care of women prisoners.
There shall be a clear and sustained commitment at the managerial level in prison administrations to prevent and address gender-based discrimination against women staff.
Clear policies and regulations on the conduct of prison staff aimed at providing maximum protection for women prisoners from any gender-based physical or verbal violence, abuse and sexual harassment shall be developed and implemented.
Women prison staff shall receive equal access to training as male staff, and all staff involved in the management of women’s prisons shall receive training on gender sensitivity and prohibition of discrimination and sexual harassment.
1. All staff assigned to work with women prisoners shall receive training relating to the gender-specific needs and human rights of women prisoners.
2. Basic training shall be provided for prison staff working in women’s prisons on the main issues relating to women’s health, in addition to first aid and basic medicine.
3. Where children are allowed to stay with their mothers in prison, awareness-raising on child development and basic training on the health care of children shall also be provided to prison staff , in order for them to respond appropriately in times of need and emergencies.
Capacity-building programmes on HIV shall be included as part of the regular training curricula of prison staff . In addition to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support, issues such as gender and human rights, with a particular focus on their link to HIV, stigma and discrimination, shall also be part of the curriculum.
Prison staff shall be trained to detect mental health care needs and risk of self-harm and suicide among women prisoners and to offer assistance by providing support and referring such cases to specialists.
Prison authorities shall put in place measures to meet the protection needs of juvenile female prisoners.
Juvenile female prisoners shall have equal access to education and vocational training that are available to juvenile male prisoners.
Juvenile female prisoners shall have access to age- and gender specific programmes and services, such as counselling for sexual abuse or violence. They shall receive education on women’s health care and have regular access to gynaecologists, similar to adult female prisoners.
Pregnant juvenile female prisoners shall receive support and medical care equivalent to that provided for adult female prisoners. Their health shall be monitored by a medical specialist, taking account of the fact that they may be at greater risk of health complications during pregnancy due to their age.
Prison administrators shall develop and implement classification methods addressing the gender-specific needs and circumstances of women prisoners to ensure appropriate and individualized planning and implementation towards those prisoners’ early rehabilitation, treatment and reintegration into society.
The gender-sensitive risk assessment and classification of prisoners shall:
a) Take into account the generally lower risk posed by women prisoners to others, as well as the particularly harmful effects that high security measures and increased levels of isolation can have on women prisoners;
b) Enable essential information about women’s backgrounds, such as violence they may have experienced, history of mental disability and substance abuse, as well as parental and other caretaking responsibilities, to be taken into account in the allocation and sentence planning process;
c) Ensure that women’s sentence plans include rehabilitative programmes and services that match their gender-specific needs;
d) Ensure that those with mental health care needs are housed in accommodation which is not restrictive, and at the lowest possible security level, and receive appropriate treatment, rather than being placed in higher security level facilities solely due to their mental health problems.
1. Women prisoners shall have access to a balanced and comprehensive programme of activities, which take account of gender appropriate needs.
2. The regime of the prison shall be flexible enough to respond to the needs of pregnant women, nursing mothers and women with children. Childcare facilities or arrangements shall be provided in prisons in order to enable women prisoners to participate in prison activities.
3. Particular efforts shall be made to provide appropriate programmes for pregnant women, nursing mothers and women with children in prison.
4. Particular efforts shall be made to provide appropriate services for women prisoners who have psychosocial support needs, especially those who have been subjected to physical, mental or sexual abuse.
Prison authorities shall encourage and, where possible, also facilitate visits to women prisoners as an important prerequisite to ensuring their mental well-being and social reintegration.
In view of women prisoners’ disproportionate experience of domestic violence, they shall be properly consulted as to who, including which family members are allowed to visit them.
Prison authorities shall utilize options such as home leave, open prisons, halfway houses and community-based programmes and services to the maximum possible extent for women prisoners, to ease their transition from prison to liberty, to reduce stigma and to re-establish their contact with their families at the earliest possible stage.
Prison authorities, in cooperation with probation and/or social welfare services, local community groups and non-governmental organizations, shall design and implement comprehensive pre- and post-release reintegration programmes which take into account the gender-specific needs of women.
Additional support following release shall be provided to released women prisoners who need psychological, medical, legal and practical help to ensure their successful social reintegration, in cooperation with services in the community.
1. Pregnant or breastfeeding women prisoners shall receive advice on their health and diet under a programme to be drawn up and monitored by qualified health practitioner. Adequate and timely food, a healthy environment and regular exercise opportunities shall be provided free of charge for pregnant women, babies, children and breastfeeding mothers.
2. Women prisoners shall not be discouraged from breastfeeding their children, unless there are specific health reasons to do so.
3. The medical and nutritional needs of women prisoners who have recently given birth, but whose babies are not with them in prison, shall be included in treatment programmes.
Decisions to allow children to stay with their mothers in prison shall be based on the best interests of the children. Children in prison with their mothers shall never be treated as prisoners.
Women prisoners whose children are in prison with them shall be provided with the maximum possible opportunities to spend time with their children.
1. Children living with their mothers in prison shall be provided with ongoing health-care services and their development shall be monitored by specialists, in collaboration with community health services.
2. The environment provided for such children’s upbringing shall be as close as possible to that of a child outside prison.
1. Decisions as to when a child is to be separated from its mother shall be based on individual assessments and the best interests of the child within the scope of relevant national laws.
2. The removal of the child from prison shall be undertaken with sensitivity, only when alternative care arrangements for the child have been identified and, in the case of foreign-national prisoners, in consultation with consular officials.
3. After children are separated from their mothers and placed with family or relatives or in other alternative care, women prisoners shall be given the maximum possible opportunity and facilities to meet with their children, when it is in the best interests of the children and when public safety is not compromised.
1. Where relevant bilateral or multilateral agreements are in place, the transfer of non-resident foreign-national women prisoners to their home country, especially if they have children in their home country, shall be considered as early as possible during their imprisonment, following the application or informed consent of the woman concerned.
2. Where a child living with a non-resident foreign-national woman prisoner is to be removed from prison, consideration should be given to relocation of the child to its home country, taking into account the best interests of the child and in consultation with the mother.
Prison authorities shall recognize that women prisoners from different religious and cultural backgrounds have distinctive needs and may face multiple forms of discrimination in their access to gender- and culture-relevant programmes and services. Accordingly, prison authorities shall provide comprehensive programmes and services that address these needs, in consultation with women prisoners themselves and the relevant groups.
Pre- and post-release services shall be reviewed to ensure that they are appropriate and accessible to indigenous women prisoners and to women prisoners from ethnic and racial groups, in consultation with the relevant groups.
The particular risk of abuse that women face in pretrial detention shall be recognized by relevant authorities, which shall adopt appropriate measures in policies and practice to guarantee such women’s safety at this time. (See also rule 58 below, with regard to alternatives to pretrial detention.)
The provisions of the Tokyo Rules shall guide the development and implementation of appropriate responses to women off enders. Gender-specific options for diversionary measures and pretrial and sentencing alternatives shall be developed within Member States’ legal systems, taking account of the history of victimization of many women offenders and their caretaking responsibilities.
Taking into account the provisions of rule 2.3 of the Tokyo Rules, women off enders shall not be separated from their families and communities without due consideration being given to their backgrounds and family ties. Alternative ways of managing women who commit offences, such as diversionary measures and pretrial and sentencing alternatives, shall be implemented wherever appropriate and possible.
Generally, non-custodial means of protection, for example in shelters managed by independent bodies, non-governmental organizations or other community services, shall be used to protect women who need such protection. Temporary measures involving custody to protect a woman shall only be applied when necessary and expressly requested by the woman concerned and shall in all cases be supervised by judicial or other competent authorities. Such protective measures shall not be continued against the will of the woman concerned.
Appropriate resources shall be made available to devise suitable alternatives for women off enders in order to combine non-custodial measures with interventions to address the most common problems leading to women’s contact with the criminal justice system. These may include therapeutic courses and counselling for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse; suitable treatment for those with mental disability; and educational and training programmes to improve employment prospects. Such programmes shall take account of the need to provide care for children and women-only services.
When sentencing women offenders, courts shall have the power to consider mitigating factors such as lack of criminal history and relative non-severity and nature of the criminal conduct, in the light of women’s caretaking responsibilities and typical backgrounds.
The provision of gender-sensitive, trauma-informed, women-only substance abuse treatment programmes in the community and women’s access to such treatment shall be improved, for crime prevention as well as for diversion and alternative sentencing purposes.
Decisions regarding early conditional release (parole) shall favourably take into account women prisoners’ caretaking responsibilities, as well as their specific social reintegration needs.
Non-custodial sentences for pregnant women and women with dependent children shall be preferred where possible and appropriate, with custodial sentences being considered when the offence is serious or violent or the woman represents a continuing danger, and after taking into account the best interests of the child or children, while ensuring that appropriate provision has been made for the care of such children.
Institutionalization of children in conflict with the law shall be avoided to the maximum extent possible. The gender-based vulnerability of juvenile female off enders shall be taken into account in decisionmaking.
Maximum effort shall be made to ratify the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing that Convention to fully implement their provisions so as to provide maximum protection to victims of trafficking in order to avoid secondary victimization of many foreign-national women.
Efforts shall be made to organize and promote comprehensive,result oriented research on the offences committed by women, the reasons that trigger women’s confrontation with the criminal justice system, the impact of secondary criminalization and imprisonment on women, the characteristics of women off enders, as well as programmes designed to reduce reoffending by women, as a basis for effective planning, programme development and policy formulation to respond to the social reintegration needs of women off enders.
Efforts shall be made to organize and promote research on the number of children affected by their mothers’ confrontation with the criminal justice system, and imprisonment in particular, and the impact of this on the children, in order to contribute to policy formulation and programme development, taking into account the best interests of the children.
Efforts shall be made to review, evaluate and make public periodically the trends, problems and factors associated with off ending behavior in women and the effectiveness in responding to the social reintegration needs of women off enders, as well as their children, in order to reduce the stigmatization and negative impact of those women’s confrontation with the criminal justice system on them.
1. The media and the public shall be informed about the reasons that lead to women’s entrapment in the criminal justice system and the most effective ways to respond to it, in order to enable women’s social reintegration, taking into account the best interests of their children.
2. Publication and dissemination of research and good practice examples shall form comprehensive elements of policies that aim to improve the outcomes and the fairness to women and their children of criminal justice responses to women off enders.
3. The media, the public and those with professional responsibility in matters concerning women prisoners and off enders shall be provided regularly with factual information about the matters covered in these rules and about their implementation.
4. Training programmes on the present rules and the results of research shall be developed and implemented for relevant criminal justice officials to raise their awareness and sensitize them to their provisions contained therein.
The Kamlangjai Project
under the Royal Initiative of HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha
The Kamlangjai Project under the Royal Initiative of HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha
Ministry of Justice 9 Fl. Government Complex , Ratchaburi Di Rek Rit Bd Laksi District , Bangkok Thailand 10210