This module is a resource for lecturers

Alternatives to imprisonment

Sentences that do not involve confinement are often unused in cases of organized crime, but there are some cases where alternatives to imprisonment may be appropriate. These circumstances might include first offenders, lower-level participants, drug users, or peripheral figures in organized crime cases. In some of these cases, alternatives to imprisonment, such as community supervision, conditional discharge, community service orders, or home confinement or monitoring may achieve the intended purpose.

Alternatives to imprisonment may infringe less on human rights while also costing less in financial terms. In appropriate cases, less reliance on imprisonment can improve the delivery of justice, including rehabilitation and reintegration, and to integrate international human rights-based standards and norms into local policies and practices (Coyle, Fair and Walmsley, 2016; Epperson and Pettus-Davis, 2017; Heard, 2016).

The use of imprisonment has increased worldwide, yet there is no clear evidence it is improving public safety. Growing numbers of prisoners in many countries have resulted in overcrowding in prisons and prison conditions that breach United Nations standards and norms that require that all prisoners be treated with human dignity. (please see the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, i.e. "The Nelson Mandela Rules" as well as checklist for internal inspection mechanisms for assessing compliance with the Nelson Mandela Rules).

Individual liberty is one of the most fundamental of human rights, recognized in international human rights instruments and national constitutions throughout the world. In order to take that right away, even temporarily, governments have a duty to justify the use of imprisonment as necessary to achieve an important societal objective for which there are no less restrictive means with which the objective can be achieved (UNODC, 2007).

At the pre-trial stage, the detention of persons presumed innocent is a particularly severe infringement of the right to liberty. Only in extremely limited circumstances is such detention justified, when there is a clear showing of danger to the community and the need to ensure the presence of the defendant at subsequent criminal proceedings.

Regional perspective: Pacific Islands Region

Restorative Justice in the Pacific

Papua New Guinea's Juvenile Justice Act 2014 establishes a comprehensive and separate juvenile justice system based on restorative justice, Melanesian tradition and contemporary juvenile justice practices.

The act defines that restorative justice, in relation to a juvenile, means the promotion of reconciliation, restitution and accountability through the involvement of the juvenile, the juvenile's parents and family members, victims and communities.

Source: Juvenile Justice Act 2014.