“Mandela Rules” passed, standards on the treatment of prisoners enhanced for the 21st century
Passage of landmark resolution at the Vienna Crime Commission revises the 1955 standard minimum rules for treatment of prisoners, ensuring they remain the universally acknowledged benchmark for prison administrations worldwide
Vienna, 22 May 2015 – Following agreement on UN rules for the treatment of prisoners, the head of UNODC, Yury Fedotov, praised Member States’ efforts and said the resolution heralded a new era for the improvement of prisoners’ treatment everywhere.
“I offer my warmest congratulations to Member States for their constructive spirit and commitment in passing the resolution on the UN standard minimum rules. Thanks to your work, the world now has an updated blueprint offering practical guidance on how prisons should be managed safely, securely and humanely,” the UNODC’s Executive Director said.
Countries are encouraged to reflect the “Mandela Rules” in their national legislation so that prison administrators can apply them in their daily work.
At their core, the rules stress the overriding principle that all prisoners shall be treated with respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings. “Most importantly”, Mr. Fedotov went on, “the rules stress that prisoners will be protected from torture and other cruel or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This means the rules probably represent one of the most significant human rights advances in recent years.”
The revision focussed on nine thematic areas, including health care in prisons, investigations of deaths in custody, disciplinary measures including strict limitations on the use of solitary confinement, professionalization of prison staff and independent inspections, among other topics.
Mr. Fedotov was speaking on the margins of the 24th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, which is held in Vienna every year. His comments came as the Crime Commission drew to a close, and endorsed the revision of the rules for subsequent adoption by the General Assembly.
The UN Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners are to be named the “Mandela Rules” to honour the legacy of the late President of South Africa. These rules are an essential update of the original rules adopted at the very first Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Geneva in 1955.
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In the pdf document available from the “Resolution’s full text” above, the Rules of General Application of the “Mandela Rules” begin on page 9.
There are 122 Rules, in all. They begin with this:
All prisoners shall be treated with the respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings. No prisoner shall be subjected to, and all prisoners shall be protected from, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, for which no circumstances whatsoever may be invoked as a justification. The safety and security of prisoners, staff, service providers and visitors shall be ensured at all times.
And end with this:
Without prejudice to the provisions of article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,29 persons arrested or imprisoned without charge shall be accorded the same protection as that accorded under part I and part II, section C, of these rules. Relevant provisions of part II, section A, of these rules shall likewise be applicable where their application may be conducive to the benefit of this special group of persons in custody, provided that no measures shall be taken implying that re-education or rehabilitation is in any way appropriate to persons not convicted of any criminal offence.
I read through to Rule 41, part 1, and then I had to stop.
Darren Rainey, pictured below, was serving a short sentence for a drug offense – self-medicating is common for folks with mental illness. I wasn’t present when Mr. Rainey screamed for help and begged for mercy in a locked closet-sized shower, while scalding hot water – via guards manipulating external controls – took its excruciating time in taking his life at Dade Correctional Institution on June 23, 2012.
Rule 41, part 1 of the “Mandela Rules” says, “Any allegation of a disciplinary offence by a prisoner shall be reported promptly to the competent authority, which shall investigate it without undue delay.”
That’s why I had to stop reading. We have no “competent authority” in Florida, up to and including Governor Rick Scott.
Scott’s response to highly suspicious in-custody deaths throughout the Sunshine State is to pretend that enforcing laws – his job – consists of restating a few laws about our prisons in an Executive Order.
With the third anniversary of Darren Rainey’s homicide rapidly approaching, his Medical Examiner’s report hasn’t even been released. Dozens of suspicious inmate deaths – before and after Darren Rainey’s – are being treated like old news.
Deliberately scalded to death.
Wrap your mind around the kind of mind capable of that act, and remember that Rick Scott has equally rabid replicas in other states that are absolutely fine with minor sentences becoming death sentences – at corrections officers’ discretion.
It’s time for Congress to embrace and enact the “Mandela Rules” … swiftly, making their violation a federal crime.
Darren Rainey was murdered by corrections officers at Dade C.I. in 2012. In 2013, Richard Mair committed suicide there after a brutal beating by corrections officers. In 2014, Lavar Valentin was denied protection there from his cellmate, who murdered him. Dade C.I. is not unique: this is happening nationwide. It’s happening in our jails, too; which a federal law would cover in one fell swoop.