Preface Winston Churchill, the former British Prime Minister once remarked that “the mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of any country. A calm, dispassionate recognition of the rights of the accused and even of the convicted criminal… and the treatment of crime and the criminal mark and measure the stored-up strength of a nation, and are the sign and proof of the living virtue within it”. And the former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, also echoed these sentiments when he noted that “one cannot judge a nation by how it treats its most illustrious citizens, but by the treatment it metes out to its most marginalized - its prisoners”. The criminal justice system is an integral and essential facet of society and reflects those accepted values that are intrinsic to every community. Those values include the need to maintain the delicate balance between individual freedom and social control. How to effectively balance these values has been a controversy for centuries and more recently with the emergence of human rights advocacy groups. In fact, the issue of prisons, and in particular, of prison overcrowding, the treatment of prisoners and the conditions of detention in general, as well as the resulting inherent human rights problems, remain of great concern to prison authorities as well as to human rights organizations. Few jurisdictions are immune from the phenomenon of growing prison populations which, according to the World Population List and World Population Brief has recently seen the number of individuals deprived of their liberty surpass 8½ million worldwide.1 With a world population of about 6.1 billion this represents an average incarceration rate of 140 prisoners per 100,000 population. This increase in prison population cannot alone be attributed to higher rates in crime. Simply, around the world there is the belief that prison is preferable to any alternative; thus, the punitive element that characterizes this sanction remains the cornerstone of modern day correctional and penal systems. In spite of the proven efficiency and effectiveness of noncustodial alternatives, harsher penalties in the form of longer prison sentences continue to be imposed.2 Fairness in the courts and decency in the treatment of prisoners have become casualties of the war on crime. This war, being waged against the poorest and most powerless people in society, is destroying people, families and communities. Many politicians always assure their constituents that the answers to crime are greater use of the death penalty, longer prison terms, harsher conditions of imprisonment, less due process and less judicial review. 1 See International Prison Policy Development Instrument 1st Edition, July 2001. The World Population List was first published in 1999, the Second Edition appearing in 2000 - Roy Walmsley, Research Findings Nos. 88 and 116. Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate, London UK. 2 Ibid. 2 Special Rapporteur on Prisons Mission to South Africa 14 – 30 June 2004

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