It is with great pleasure that I introduce this Special Issue of our network newsletter. I first wish to extend my deepest regard to all of you. The business of prison oversight is challenging at the best of times, but this pandemic has forced us to maneuver and adapt in unprecedented ways. External prison oversight is an essential and critical service, and should be treated and operationalized accordingly.
Prisons, and other places of detention, are closed environments where liberties are significantly restricted by the State. Correctional authorities must remain vigilant to prevent and detect human rights abuses, and bring corrective measures when they occur.
We are learning that during a pandemic situation, when access to penal environments is severely or completely limited, it is more important than ever to ensure that external monitoring continues. We must not lapse in our expectation that prison administrations should continue to abide by the principles of transparency, accountability and the least restrictive measures.
In the last Network Newsletter, I announced that we would be launching a special issue looking at the “local impact of COVID-19” on the work of prison oversight. I invited our members to contribute, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. I would like to thank the following authors for their excellent contributions to this issue:
The team of authors from United Kingdom’s National Preventative Mechanism
Prof. Sir Malcolm Evans, UN Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture
Dr. Elina Steinerte, UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
Mark Kelly, European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, Council of Europe
International Committee of the Red Cross
Audrey Olivier Muralt, Association for the Prevention of Torture
Janis Adair, Office of the Inspectorate, New Zealand
Lic. Mariana Sheehan, Procuración Penitenciaria de la Nación, Argentina
Jessica Horua & Holly Fredericksen, Inspector of Correctional Services, ACT
Eleena Mitchell, Iowa Office of Ombudsman, United States
Eamon Ryan, Inspector of Custodial Services,
Fiona Rafter, Emily Collett, & Laurie Cullinan, Inspector of Custodial Services, NSW
Since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been inundated with information on how prison administrations, justice departments, and organizations responsible for monitoring places of detention can modify their policies and operations to mitigate the impacts of the virus. Indeed, it is a testament to the age of information technology which we are living in, that so much could be shared so rapidly. Consequently, many organizations and individuals have taken it upon themselves to catalogue this deluge of information into shareable content. In the same vein, we have provided a select list of resources that we have found to be both helpful and well maintained, at the end of this document.
Finally, I would like to extend a special thanks to Steven Caruana,
Coordinator of the Australia OPCAT Network
, and Emad Talisman,
Policy and Research Analyst for Canada’s Office of the Correctional Investigator,
for their strong leadership and commitment to best practices in external prison oversight. Without their dedication and hard work, this newsletter could not have been possible.
I do hope you find this issue informative and helpful. Please feel free to share it with your colleagues and networks.
Ivan Zinger, Correctional Investigator of Canada.