FACTSHEET

3.	Types and situations of risk

Main references
•	 Revised UN Standard Minimum Rules for the

Treatment of Prisoners, Section on Institutional
personnel, Rules 74 to 826

•	 UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and
Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the
Bangkok Rules), Section 9 – Institutional personnel
and training, Rules 29 to 35

•	 UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of
their Liberty, Section V – Personnel, Rules 81 to 85

•	 UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of
Juvenile Justice, Rule 22

•	 Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by
Law Enforcement Officials, Section on qualifications,
training and counseling, Articles 18 to 21

•	 Principles and Best Practices on the Protection of

Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas, Section
on Personnel of places of deprivation of liberty,
Principle XX

•	 Council of Europe European Prison Rules, Part V –

3.1 Factors related to the institution and its
culture
Prisons vary greatly in their purpose and nature. There
are low-, medium- and high-security prisons, closed and
open prisons; prisons specifically for men, women and
juveniles among others. Some prisons accommodate
thousands of detainees while others house only small
numbers. Each prison has its own atmosphere and
set of shared values about the way things are done.
While in some importance is placed on professionalism,
respect and rehabilitation, others are characterised by
a climate of anxiety, distrust and abuse. It is useful to
keep in mind that the organisational culture of a prison
has a significant influence on the working conditions and
experiences of prison officers employed within it.7
A study aimed at measuring the quality of life in
Doncaster prison in the UK observed that there was
much similarity in how prisoners, staff and managers
described the positive ethos of the prison.8

Management and staff, Rules 71 to 81

•	 Guidelines and Measures for the Prohibition and

Prevention of Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment in Africa (The Robben Island
Guidelines), Section on Training and Empowerment,
Guidelines 45 & 46

•	 Council of Europe Committee of Ministers

Recommendation No. R(97)12 on Staff Concerned
with the Implementation of Sanctions and Measures
(1997)

Relating to non-discrimination:

•	 Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination
Against Women

•	 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination

“The policy here is that you are here as, not
for, punishment’ (prisoner). ‘The way the
organization relates to you affects the way
you relate to each other, which affects the
way you relate to your job (officer).”
(Quotes from Doncaster prison, UK)9

The institution in charge of a prison plays an
important role in shaping its culture and thus the
experiences of its staff. Even though international
standards provide that prison staff should be civilian
with security of tenure subject only to good conduct,10
in a number of countries prisons are run by the military
or police. The ethos, structure and practices of these
institutions naturally influence the conditions in which
prison officers work. For example, military and police run
institutions tend to be very hierarchical and regimented,
and characterised by distrust towards detainees and a
punitive approach to imprisonment. This often manifests
itself in a culture of violence,11 with negative implications
for detainees as well as staff.
While the majority of prisons are operated by authorities,
a number are outsourced to private companies.12
Prison staff working in the two distinct types of

6.	 The revised United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules), adopted by the UN Commission on
Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice on 22 May 2015, endorsed by the Economic and Social Council on 9 September 2015, E/RES/2015/20 and
adopted by UN General Assembly Third Committee on 5 November 2015, A/C.3/70/L.3 (at the time of printing this Resolution was pending adoption
by the plenary of the UN General Assembly.)
7.	 PRI/APT, Institutional culture in detention: a framework for preventive monitoring, 2nd edition, 2015.
8.	 Liebling A, Prisons and Their Moral Performance, Oxford University Press, 2004, p418.
9.	 Ibid.
10.	Revised Standard Minimum Rules, Rule 74 (3).
11.	Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Report on the human rights of persons deprived of their liberty in the Americas, 2011, p62.
12.	The broader issue of ensuring the respect for human rights in private prisons is important for monitoring bodies but beyond the scope of this paper.

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Penal Reform International | Staff working conditions: Addressing risk factors to prevent torture and ill-treatment

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