Mandela Rules for Prisoners: This Life Cambodia as Best Practice

The UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners were adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly in 2015, after a four year revision process. Now known as the ‘Nelson Mandela Rules, they honour the legacy of the late President of South Africa who spent 27 years in prison.

As the international standard applied to the treatment of prisoners, the Mandela Rules are widely used by many countries as the basis for national prison administration. Covering a wide range of issues, the rules have the collective goal of ensuring that prisoners are treated respectfully, that their rights are upheld and their health and wellbeing is maintained.

This year, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and Penal Reform International (PRI) jointly published a guide to implementing the revised Mandela rules focused on the areas that were updated in 2015.

As an example of a best practice implementation, This Life Cambodia was included for our work in facilitating family visits for youth in prison as part of our flagship program This Life Beyond Bars.

The report details several reasons why prisoners regular contact with friends and family is so critical, including the right to a family life, improved health and well-being of prisoners, as a safeguard against ill-treatment and for their successful reintegration when they return to their families and communities:

“Contact with the outside world is crucial for the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners. Meaningful interactions with family, friends and community representatives help individuals imagine their life after release, and help them to prepare themselves accordingly, both practically and psychologically.” (1)

(1) Guidance Document on the Nelson Mandela Rules: Penal Reform International & Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights

We are grateful to have our work recognized and put forth as a successful model for adaptation. This Life Beyond Bars has had considerable success in rehabilitating and reintegrating youth in prison. Prior to the program’s existence, 60% of youth who had been imprisoned reoffended within 6 months of release. The recidivism rate of students who complete our program and return to their community now sits at only 2% within the first 6 months, and 4% in total.

To learn more about this program, please visit: This Life Beyond Bars

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