European Committee for the Prevention of Torture
and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Developments concerning CPT standards
in respect of imprisonment
Extract from the 11th General Report of the CPT,
published in 2001
Almost a decade has elapsed since the CPT described, in its 2nd General Report, some of the
main issues pursued by the Committee when visiting prison establishments. In the meantime, the
Committee has carried out more than 100 visits and the number of Parties to the Convention has
practically doubled. Naturally, the CPT’s standards in respect of imprisonment have gradually
evolved, in the light of the new situations encountered and the experience gathered.
The CPT intends, progressively, to draw up updated descriptions of its standards in all areas
falling within its mandate. For the time being, the CPT would like, in this section of its 11th General
Report, to highlight a miscellany of issues in the area of prison matters which are of particular
current concern to the Committee and, no doubt, to those responsible for prison administration and
to other interested circles throughout Europe.
The cornerstone of a humane prison system will always be properly recruited and trained
prison staff who know how to adopt the appropriate attitude in their relations with prisoners and see
their work more as a vocation than as a mere job. Building positive relations with prisoners should
be recognised as a key feature of that vocation.
Regrettably, the CPT often finds that relations between staff and prisoners are of a formal
and distant nature, with staff adopting a regimented attitude towards prisoners and regarding verbal
communication with them as a marginal aspect of their work. The following practices frequently
witnessed by the CPT are symptomatic of such an approach: obliging prisoners to stand facing a
wall whilst waiting for prison staff to attend to them or for visitors to pass by; requiring prisoners to
bow their heads and keep their hands clasped behind their back when moving within the
establishment; custodial staff carrying their truncheons in a visible and even provocative manner.
Such practices are unnecessary from a security standpoint and will do nothing to promote positive
relations between staff and prisoners.
The real professionalism of prison staff requires that they should be able to deal with
prisoners in a decent and humane manner while paying attention to matters of security and good
order. In this regard prison management should encourage staff to have a reasonable sense of trust
and expectation that prisoners are willing to behave themselves properly. The development of
constructive and positive relations between prison staff and prisoners will not only reduce the risk
of ill-treatment but also enhance control and security. In turn, it will render the work of prison staff
far more rewarding.