Each year, approximately 15 million people throughout the world are in prison or are detained. Of this total, 10 million are incarcerated and five million are released back into the community. What takes place while they are in prisons has a tremendous impact on what happens to them, and to society, when they are released.

Correctional systems – including detention, imprisonment, probation, parole, and community supervision – are key to the health of criminal justice systems. Effective correction institutions contribute to public safety, stability of society, and legitimacy of government. Ineffective, corrupt, or inhumane systems can undermine public support for governmental authority, contribute to crime by enabling criminal organizations to continue conducting criminal activities and enterprises, or by failing to keep convicted prisoners in jail.

Corrections reform has become integral to INL’s mission of providing criminal justice assistance. INL helps nations improve sub-standard correctional systems to make them safe, secure, humane, and transparent. We also work to ensure they comply with international standards and norms, and contribute to the stability and security of the host nation, the United States, and the international community. INL does this by working with U.S. federal and state corrections institutions, the private sector, civil society, and multilateral organizations, such as the United Nations and Council of Europe, to:

  1. Generate and deliver programs to assist nations with reforming sub-standard prison and correctional systems;
  2. Provide technical assistance, training, and mentoring that strengthens corrections institutions around the world; and,
  3. Engage in the development of global corrections standards and policies.

INL Corrections Success Stories

  • Since 2008, INL has provided $25 million to support partnerships with three U.S. state correctional systems – California, New Mexico, and Colorado – and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to help the Government of Mexico reform its federal and state penitentiary systems. To date, New Mexico has trained more than 505 Mexican academy instructors in the United States. The trainees have since returned to Mexico and have trained more than 7,800 other Mexican penitentiary officers. The states of California and Colorado and the BOP have also trained hundreds of mid and senior-level Mexican managers who now serve as the foundation of sustainable, ongoing reform throughout the Mexico penitentiary system.
  • Since mid-2013, INL has provided assistance and training to corrections officials in Pakistan’s Sindh Province. As a result, senior officials in Sindh Province have enacted sweeping reforms that have led to improved rehabilitative activities in prisons, new prisoner transport security procedures, and the construction of a new processing area that facilitates prisoner searches and enhances prison safety.
  • Since 2012, with support from INL, the Republic of Georgia’s corrections sector has enacted more reforms than any other part of Georgia’s criminal justice system. The $1.1 million in INL assistance helped establish Rustavi 16, a new model prison, has led to the introduction of modern and humane prison management practices in Georgia, and supported major renovations throughout Georgia’s prison system that have created better prison conditions, and facilitated the delivery of vocational and educational training for prisoners.
  • Over the past five years, with INL’s assistance, the Moroccan prison administration has implemented an improved process for classifying prisoners that separates high risk offenders from the general prison population. Morocco also implemented new security measures to enhance the safety of prisoners and corrections staff.
  • Through the United Nations and alongside experts from the corrections field, academia, and civil society, INL has strengthened international standards for the treatment of prisoners worldwide. The original Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners were adopted by the United Nations in 1957 to provide a guide for creating meaningful and humane change in corrections institutions. The revised rules, known as “The Nelson Mandela Rules,” were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on October 7, 2015. For several years prior to the UN adoption, INL led the way for the United States in the international negotiations and diplomacy needed to push through this update to the standards.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future