MELBOURNE: The leadership of the International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA) is pushing its “Yellow Ribbon Concept,” which recommends rehabilitation of prisoners worldwide instead of incarceration.
In the 17th Annual Conference of ICPA being held here, ICPA president Peter Van der Sande from The Netherlands said imprisonment is a “very expensive solution.”
The conference was attended by 600 delegates from 54 countries, including host Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Namibia, Germany and the Philippines, whose delegation is headed by Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief and The Manila Times columnist Persida Rueda-Acosta.
Acosta said prisoners must be treated humanely like any other individual and her office is focused on a jail decongestion program.
“We are now conducting legal, medical and dental missions in prison facilities and a jail visitation program with prisoners in the Philippines. [An] [i]nmate, whether Filipino or not, must be treated with respect and humanely like an ordinary individual,” the PAO chief added.
Der Sande said “imprisonment is very expensive solution while cheaper solutions are available and this thinking is echoed around the globe.”
He pointed out that he is not pushing for abolition of incarceration but that leaders around the globe should start solving jail decongestion.
“I’m not pleading for the abolition of Incarceration. In this context, I believe we should start thinking rather than judging,” der Sande said.
The “Yellow Ribbon Concept” focuses on giving an inmate or a prisoner a “second chance.”
The rehabilitation of prisoners, which can be done with the help of the community, is part of this concept, according to der Sande.
He said the prison should be brought to the community and the community to the prison.
According to der Sande, this symbiotic relationship between correctional services and the community is critical in gaining a “safe society.”
It was pointed out at the conference that the community must not shut its doors to offenders in prison but give them a second chance in life to reform and be rehabilitated.
Der Sande said each and every country must eye “imprisonment as a last resort.”
“We should build bridges between politicians and community. We need to connect prisons to the community,” he added.
Der Sande cited US President Barack Obama in a recent speech outlining an economic case for shrinking prison population by rehabilitating inmates instead of locking them up.
It was argued at the conference that the government should “respect the detainee as an appreciated citizen and a normal human being . . . until [his]release and rehabilitation.”
On the issue of recidivism and frequent offenders, the ICPA chief said “the best antidote to prevent recidivism is in approach which balances on one hand the combination safety, care friend and dignified human treatment.”
“The basic principle of ICPA is that a detained person is a citizen and remains a citizen and cannot be downgraded to a legal entity,” der Sande added.