Issue 5 | 20 April 2020 (Corrected Version)
Dear Members,

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
      Sara Snell, 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, Western Australia
      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.

With Gratitude,
Ivan Zinger, Correctional Investigator of Canada.
Phone: 1 (613) 990 8904 | Email | Fax: 1 (613) 990 9091