Penal Reform International

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Penal Reform International (commonly known as PRI) was founded in London in 1989, and has members in five continents and in over 80 countries. PRI is an international nongovernmental organization working on penal and criminal justice reform worldwide. PRI currently has regional offices and programmes in the Middle East and North Africa, Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia and the South Caucasus. They have also worked with partner organisations in other parts of Africa and, using a variety of approaches, on penal reform issues in Asia, North and Latin America and the Caribbean. PRI shares best practice and expertise across regions, as well as working to develop and promote culturally specific solutions to criminal justice and penal reform.

PRI seeks to achieve penal reform by promoting:

  • The development and implementation of international human rights instruments in relation to law enforcement and prison conditions
  • The elimination of unfair and unethical discrimination in all penal measures
  • The abolition of the death penalty
  • The reduction of the use of imprisonment throughout the world
  • The use of constructive non-custodial sanctions which support the social reintegration offenders whilst taking into account the interests of victims.

PRI works with penal reform activists, NGOs and governments, as well as intergovernmental organisations such as the United Nations.

Working with civil society is central to their programme activities and they actively support the greater involvement of civil society in criminal justice reform. PRI has Consultative Status with the United Nations (ECOSOC) and the Council of Europe, and Observer Status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. PRI is also a registered civil society organisation with the Organization of American States (OAS).

Although PRI works in partnership with governments, it only seeks and accepts funds from governments to undertake work in accordance with its agreed programme. As an independent NGO, PRI does not accept any funds from governments which threaten its autonomy or require it to depart from its mandate or programme of work.

PRI's key working methods are:

  • Providing support to NGOs and governments seeking to reform their penal systems
  • Assisting penal reform activists and specialists in setting up organisations within their own countries
  • Assessing prison conditions at the request of governments and NGOs recommending sustainable improvements and developing projects to bring those improvements about
  • Developing alternatives to custody, and other penal reform projects that are culturally relevant
  • Producing training resources and training criminal justice officials and NGO staff on international standards in human rights
  • Organising national, regional and worldwide conferences, seminars and exchange visits, bringing together penal reform activists, specialists and government representatives
  • Publishing newsletters that cover developments in penal reform, reporting on penal conditions worldwide
  • Developing relationships with the United Nations and its agencies, the Council of Europe, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Organisation of American States, and other inter-governmental organisations.

Baroness Stern was Secretary-General of PRI from 1989 until 2006. Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, is now Secretary-General.

Dr Rani Dhavan Shankardass was Chairperson of PRI and is succeeded by David Daubney as Chairperson.

The organisation is based in London, UK.

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