November 17, 2007

More international news

Since we're on an international kick today, here are a few other interesting criminal justice stories from around the world.

Major overhaul of South African justice system
South Africa's criminal justice system is in for a series of far-reaching changes after the Cabinet last week approved a turnaround strategy that goes to the heart of the problems with the country's anti-crime methods and structures.
The story, with lots of relevant links, is here.

Dire prison overcrowding in Great Britain
Since you read the news, you already know about prison overcrowding in the United States. And I've previously blogged about the problem elsewhere in the world, including in New Zealand. Yesterday's Times reported on the dire situation in England these days, with prisoners being driven around for hours in search of a cell to squeeze them in. It sounds like the crisis situation in hospital emergency rooms here in the United States!

Britain’s most senior judge has given warning that the shortage of prison spaces was now "critical" as a result of ministers' failure to take account of the cost implications of their sentencing policies.
Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice, said that the present prison overcrowding could not continue. And he delivered a stark message to ministers — either they should fund the sentences that judges impose or change the sentencing framework that requires them, often, to jail offenders.

"We are in a critical situation," he said. "The prisons are full to capacity." Prisoners who went to court did not know if they would return to the same cell or even the same prison. Cells designed for one were being used for two and prisons were being forced, literally, to close their doors to more admissions. "Prisoners are being driven around for hours on end in a desperate search for a prison that can squeeze them in," he added. "As often or not 200 or 300 are spending the night in police or court cells. We simply cannot go on like this."
The full article is here.

Expert calls for overhaul of Brazilian criminal justice system

The criminal justice system in Brazil is in fare more dire straits than those in South Africa or England, according to a United Nations expert.
Brazil's police engage frequently in extrajudicial executions and many moonlight in death squads or militias involved in racketeering, an independent United Nations human rights expert said today, calling for wholesale reform of the country’s culture of policing.

Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said in a statement detailing his preliminary observations after conducting an 11-day visit to Brazil that its prisons are also severely overcrowded, leading to riots and numerous killings by both guards and inmates.
While Brazil's authorities, especially in its biggest cities, face enormous pressure in protecting citizens from the threats of gang violence, drug trafficking and other forms of organized crime, he said the criminal justice system must be overhauled to stop the routine abuse of human rights.
The U.N. news release is here; the full report is here.