Global Prison Trends 2018
Date:  05-18-2018

Authors of report frame it as being a useful tool for policy makers and others seeking to create a fair and effective criminal justice system
From the report Global Prison Trends 2018 authored by Alison Hannah, Executive Director, Penal Reform International and Dr. Kittipong Kittayarak, Executive Director, Thailand Institute of Justice:


Global Prison Trends 2018 is the fourth edition in Penal Reform International’s annual series, published in collaboration with the Thailand Institute of Justice. The report analyses trends in criminal justice and the use of imprisonment and, as in previous years, these show that while overall crime rates around the world have declined, the number of people in prison on any given day is rising.

This continuing increase demonstrates that pre-trial detention is not being used as a last resort, as required by international standards, and prison remains the automatic response to criminal offending in most countries around the globe. Minor, petty offences continue to attract prison sentences, including poverty-related crimes like theft or drug use and possession. Overall, sentences are becoming longer, with mandatory minimum sentencing policies restricting access to justice. With few exceptions, the principle of proportionality in sentencing remains aspirational.

People from minority groups and Indigenous communities continue to be caught up in criminal justice systems at disproportionate levels, which often reflects the social and economic exclusion of such groups.

All of these factors have contributed to prison overcrowding at crisis levels, and although some countries have made efforts to reduce their prison populations, many have resorted to unsustainable ‘quick fixes’ such as amnesties or building new prisons.

Criminal justice policies affect nearly every aspect of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including poverty, food security, human rights, health and well-being, education, social inclusion, gender equality, employment, environmental issues, human security, access to justice, inclusive political processes, and governance and the rule of law. Yet they have often been developed without full consideration of the costs of such policies for sustainable development.

As the Special Focus section on The rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders in the era of sustainable development argues, our leaders need to rethink criminal justice policy to overcome these enormous problems and ensure that ‘no one is left behind’ – a commitment made by states in adopting the SDGs. A system based on rehabilitation and sustainable development can see people in prison rebuild their lives and contribute to safer societies, free from poverty.

In addition to chapters on sentencing, prison populations, prison management, the role and use of technologies and alternatives to imprisonment, this year’s report takes a closer look at pre-trial justice issues. Part two covers developments in safeguarding rights for people arrested and suspected of a criminal offence, as well as new research on sentencing practices, such as the increasing use of plea bargaining and life imprisonment.

By providing an overview of trends and challenges in penal policy and the use of imprisonment globally, we hope that Global Prison Trends 2018 provides a useful tool for policymakers and other actors working towards fair and effective criminal justice systems.

Alison Hannah Executive Director Penal Reform International

Dr. Kittipong Kittayarak Executive Director Thailand Institute of Justice

Read the full report here.