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New Zealand

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Watchdog groups highlighted overcrowding; inadequate mental health treatment and treatment of prisoners who risked self-harm; excessive restraint, including the abuse of solitary confinement; and prisoner-on-prisoner violence as systemic problems in prisons and detention facilities. Both the government and civil society groups highlighted the disproportionate rates of incarceration of indigenous peoples (see section 6, Indigenous People).

Physical Conditions: Persons age 17 or older who are accused of a crime are tried as adults and, if convicted, sent to adult prisons. Authorities held male prisoners younger than 17 in four separate detention facilities operated by the national child and youth welfare agency, Oranga Tamariki. There was no separate facility for juvenile female prisoners because there were very few such prisoners.

Watchdog groups criticized the penal system for overcrowding and for inadequate and inconsistent health care.

Suicide and suspected suicide rates in prisons were higher than in the general population.

Due to a lack of beds in secure youth residences, at times children have been detained in police cells.

In April media reported that due to COVID-19 pandemic-related social-distancing restrictions, many prisons had longer lockdown periods for prisoners. The independent Office of the Ombudsman, which has a statutory monitoring role, reported that the Department of Corrections had “discouraged” ombudsman staff from visiting prisons because of the risk of infection (see Independent Monitoring below).

After a second COVID-19 outbreak in August that mainly affected Maori and Pacific Islander communities in South Auckland, the government required everyone who tested positive for COVID-19 to stay at a government-managed isolation facility, rather than self-isolate at home. All isolation and quarantine facilities were international-standard hotels. Responding to a Maori rights activist’s accusations that the new rules were “paternalistic” and “racist,” the government said the change was made “for public health reasons…regardless of ethnicity, to keep families together.”

Administration: Inmates could make uncensored complaints to statutory inspectors, an ombudsperson, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The Office of the Ombudsman reports to parliament annually on its findings about prison conditions.

Following a June change in legislation, prisoners serving sentences of less than three years are eligible to vote in general elections.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison-monitoring visits by independent human rights observers. The law provides for specified rights of inspection, including by members of parliament and justices of the peace. Information was publicly available on complaints and investigations, subject to the provisions of privacy legislation. The Office of the Ombudsman inspects prisons and mental-health facilities to prevent cruel and inhuman treatment, in line with national standards and the law.

In April the ombudsman reported that the Department of Corrections had “discouraged” ombudsman staff from visiting prisons because of the risk of COVID-19 infection. The corrections minister ordered the department to facilitate statutory visits from the Office of the Ombudsman “where they could be done safely.” Also in April an NGO representative claimed the Corrections Department’s COVID-19 policies contravened the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, under which any lockdowns longer than 22 hours a day without meaningful human contact are considered solitary confinement. The corrections minister stated that no prison operated a policy of locking the whole jail down for 23 hours a day.

Oman

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

While prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards, there were some allegations of abuse and life-threatening conditions.

Physical Conditions: In a March 2019 report, Amnesty International described the conditions in Samail Central Prison as “poor.” According to the report, the prison did not provide appropriate meals or prescribe medications to inmates with diabetes or other illnesses, and it supplied prisoners with one uniform per year. At least one diplomatic observer noted that prisoners’ difficulties in obtaining medications were generally due to misunderstandings or translation issues. The OHRC said that an OHRC delegation visited Samail Central Prison in 2019, met with male and female prisoners, and observed that sick prisoners had access to medical care and appropriate food.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, there were reports of infections among inmates in some of the country’s prisons. Following prison visits during the year, the OHRC reported that prison and detention center officials were working to protect inmates and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by isolating and monitoring new prisoners for 14 days in separate areas before transferring them to their cells, and educating inmates on health and virus-prevention best practices.

Administration: There was no established prison authority to which prisoners could bring grievances concerning prison conditions. The OHRC conducted prison and detention center site visits and reviewed written complaints in conjunction with prison administrators. There was no ombudsman to serve on behalf of prisoners and detainees; this responsibility falls under the public jurisdiction of the public prosecution, which maintained an office in Samail Central Prison. Prisoners and detainees did not always have regular access to visitors.

Independent Monitoring: The OHRC reported on human rights conditions to the sultan via the State Council. The OHRC investigated claims of abuse, conducted prison and detention center site visits, and published a summary of its activities in an annual report. The law permits visits by international human rights observers, yet no such groups were based in the country, and there were no reports of independent, nongovernmental observers from abroad requesting to visit the country. Consular officers from some diplomatic missions reported difficulties in meeting with prisoners or delayed notification about detained citizens.

Pakistan

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Conditions in some civilian prisons and military detention centers were harsh and life threatening due to overcrowding, inadequate food and medical care, and unsanitary conditions.

Physical Conditions: Prison conditions often were extremely poor. Overcrowding remained a serious problem, largely due to structural issues in the criminal justice system that led to a high rate of pretrial detention. According to prison authorities, as of August the total nationwide prison population stood at 82,139 in 116 prisons across the country. The designed capacity of these prisons is 64,099, putting the occupancy at 28 percent above capacity.

Inadequate food and medical care in prisons continued to cause chronic health problems. Malnutrition remained a problem, especially for inmates unable to supplement their diets with help from family or friends. In many facilities the sanitation, ventilation, lighting, and access to potable water were inadequate. Most prison facilities were antiquated and had no means to control indoor temperatures. A system existed for basic and emergency medical care, but bureaucratic procedures slowed access. Prisoners with disabilities usually lacked adequate care. Representatives of Christian and Ahmadi Muslim communities claimed prison inmates often subjected their members to abuse and violence in prison. Civil society organizations reported prison officials frequently subjected prisoners accused of blasphemy violations to poor prison conditions. NGOs reported many individuals accused of blasphemy remained in solitary confinement for extended periods, sometimes for more than a year. The government asserted this treatment was for the individual’s safety, in view of the likelihood that prisoners accused of blasphemy would face threats from the general prison population.

Authorities held female prisoners separately from men. Nevertheless, despite the passage of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2018, which provides for separate places of confinement, NGOs reported prison officials held transgender women with men, and the men harassed the transgender women. Balochistan had no women’s prison, but authorities confined women in separate barracks from male convicts.

Due to lack of infrastructure, prison departments often did not segregate detainees from convicted criminals.

Prison officials kept juvenile offenders in barracks separate from adults. According to the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, prisoners and prison staff subjected children to rape and other forms of violence.

Although the Islamabad High Court decided to release vulnerable, pretrial, or remand detainees during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court overturned the ruling on March 30, halting the detainees’ release.

Administration: An ombudsman for detainees maintained a central office in Islamabad and offices in each province. Inspectors general of prisons irregularly visited prisons and detention facilities to monitor conditions and handle complaints.

By law, prison authorities must permit prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions. There were reports, however, that prisoners refrained from submitting complaints to avoid retaliation from jail authorities. The law also provides for visitation privileges, but overcrowding and lack of adequate visitor facilities in some prisons restricted detainees’ ability to receive visits. In most cases authorities allowed prisoners to observe their religious traditions.

A total of 548 (519 Sindh, 29 Punjab) prisoners under trial detained for petty or minor offenses were released on the orders of two provincial high courts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Independent Monitoring: International organizations responsible for monitoring prisons reported difficulty accessing some detention sites, in particular those holding security-related detainees. Authorities did not allow international organizations access to detention centers in areas most affected by violence in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the former FATA, and Balochistan. Authorities at the local, provincial, and national levels permitted some human rights groups and journalists to monitor prison conditions of juveniles and female inmates.

Improvements: During the year Punjab, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s prison departments continued construction of their own prison academies, focusing on modern prison management techniques that promote human rights and counter violent extremism.

Palau

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions were inadequate and did not meet the international standards.

Physical Conditions: The country’s only jail, in Koror, with a capacity of 58, held 86 prisoners as of September; 82 were men. There are separate prison cells for male and female prisoners.

Administration: There were no reports of mistreatment. The Office of the Ombudsman, vacant since 2016, is not independent.

Independent Monitoring: There were no requests for human rights observers to visit prisons.

Panama

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions remained harsh, due to overcrowding, insufficient internal security, a shortage of prison guards, and inadequate medical services and sanitary conditions.

Physical Conditions: According to the Ministry of Government’s National Directorate of the Penitentiary System (DGSP), as of October the prison system held 17,895 prisoners in facilities with an intended capacity of 14,591 inmates. Pretrial detainees shared cells with convicted prisoners due to space constraints. Prison conditions for women were generally better than for men, but conditions for both populations were poor, with some facilities overcrowded, inadequate inmate security and medical care, and a lack of basic supplies for personal hygiene.

Evangelical pastors and gang leaders tightly controlled the pavilions inside the prisons. Two separate nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported perceived favoritism towards evangelical inmates who appointed themselves “leaders of the prison pavilions.” NGO representatives reported that perceived corruption within the prison system enabled these “leader” inmates to receive privileges, most likely requiring the collaboration of police or civilian custodians. Other inmates had to secure approval of these “leaders,” which often involved payment of bribes, to obtain expedited transfers or access to their legal counselors.

Gang activity in prisons represented a daily threat to prisoner safety. Deficient prison security management contributed to a December 2019 massacre in La Joyita Prison, resulting in 13 deaths and 14 persons injured. NGO representatives said prison security personnel were likely complicit in the smuggling of AK-47s and other firearms used in the killings.

Despite various sanitary protocols implemented due to the pandemic, medical care overall was inadequate due to lack of personnel, transportation, and medical resources. As of September there were no vaccination campaigns in prisons. Authorities transferred patients with serious illnesses to public clinics, but there were constant difficulties in arranging inmate transportation. The DGSP lacked ambulances. Transfer of inmates depended on the availability of police vehicles or the limited national ambulance system.

As of September, 2,134 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19, six of whom died. Owing to the pandemic, authorities put 923 inmates who had completed two-thirds of their sentences or had chronic illnesses under house arrest to reduce overcrowding. Bureaucracy within the Public Ministry, DGSP, and courts prevented the release of additional inmates who qualified for release.

Administration: Authorities conducted investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment. Representatives from the Ombudsman’s Office and the judicial system reported it was difficult for them to receive access to DGSP authorities.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers. The Ombudsman’s Office prisons officer visited prisons, including an unannounced visit by the ombudsman in September, but due to the pandemic, visits had to be limited and prearranged. Human rights NGOs seeking access to prisons were required to send a written request to the DGSP 15 days in advance.

Papua New Guinea

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were poor overall. The prison system continued to suffer from serious underfunding, food shortages, inadequate medical facilities, and overcrowding in some facilities.

Physical Conditions: The country’s prisons were overcrowded. Infrequent court sessions, slow police investigations, and bail restrictions for certain crimes exacerbated overcrowding.

Authorities held pretrial detainees in the same prisons with convicted prisoners but in separate cells. Pretrial detainees, frustrated by the slow processing of their cases, at times led prison breaks, which were common.

All prison facilities had separate accommodations for juvenile offenders. The Department of Justice and Attorney General operated four juvenile facilities, and the Roman Catholic Church operated three juvenile reception centers to hold minors awaiting arraignment prior to posting of bail. Nonetheless, Human Rights Watch reported authorities routinely held juveniles with adults in police detention cells, where older detainees often assaulted younger detainees. Police sometimes denied juvenile court officers access to detainees. Authorities usually held male and female inmates separately, but some rural prisons lacked separate facilities.

Sanitation was poor, and prisoners complained of disease. Media commented on overcrowding at jails and prisons, reporting in August that police in Port Moresby made arrests selectively due to insufficient room at local prison facilities and concerns that overcrowding would spread disease at police and corrections facilities. Also in August a mass escape took place at the Buimo prison in Lae, Morobe Province, after the prison recorded its first confirmed COVID-19 case. Media reported that the prisoners staged the breakout on the pretense of seeking medical aid for an allegedly sick fellow inmate. Forty-five inmates escaped.

In January international media described execrable conditions at the Bomana Immigration Center in Port Moresby (see section 2.f.), where refugees formerly held on Manus Island were housed. The reports detailed the facility’s lack of shade and air conditioning, the minimal food and clean water, and the poor sanitation.

In September media reported that police in New Ireland Province held arrestees in a condemned cell with no toilets, no showers, no ventilation, and no separate facilities for men and women or for adults and juveniles. The articles noted that police leadership reassigned officers from the site once it was condemned, but that prisoners continued to be held at the facility.

Administration: The government mandated the Ombudsman Commission to visit prisons and investigate complaints from prisoners. Through September the commission lacked adequate resources to monitor and investigate effectively prison conditions. In October it received funding for prison visits, conducted one visit, and scheduled multiple visits in November.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring visits by independent observers. Correctional service officials said that individual church representatives made visits, but that the service did not keep records or statistics on the number or types of visits.

Paraguay

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions were harsh and at times life threatening due to inmate violence, mistreatment, overcrowding, poorly trained staff, poor infrastructure, and unsanitary living conditions.

Physical Conditions: According to the NMPT, prisons were overcrowded, with inmates at some facilities forced to share bunks, sleep on floors, and sleep in shifts. The NMPT found that as of August 31, the average occupancy rate was 98 percent above the NMPT’s occupational index, an improvement from the 200 percent occupancy rate reported in 2019, based on a standard of at least 75 square feet for each inmate. Penitentiaries did not have adequate accommodations for inmates with physical disabilities.

Prisons and juvenile facilities generally lacked adequate temperature control systems, of particular concern during hot summer months. Some prisons had cells with inadequate lighting. At times prisoners were confined for long periods without an opportunity for exercise. Some prisons lacked basic medical care. Adherence to fire prevention norms was lacking.

Overcrowding and limited resources to control the prisons abetted criminal organizations and generated violent confrontations. Government authorities in the northeastern region of the country on the border with Brazil reported inmate recruitment within the prisons by members of Brazilian gangs, including Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC) and Comando Vermelho. The government attributed a significant jailbreak at Pedro Juan Caballero Prison in January by more than 70 PCC members in part to corruption and complicity among prison officials.

On July 6, inmates at Tacumbu Prison rioted in an effort to regain visitation rights that were limited or eliminated as a COVID-19 precautionary measure. Visitation rights at Tacumbu Prison were restored later.

Administration: Authorities conducted some investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment, but the NMPT reported authorities often failed to conduct adequate investigations, particularly into prison directors accused of mistreatment. There were reports that visitors, including lawyers, frequently needed to offer bribes to visit prisoners, hindering effective representation of inmates by public defenders. Although married and unmarried heterosexual inmates were permitted conjugal visits, the ministry prohibited such visits for homosexual inmates.

Independent Monitoring: With prior coordination the government granted access to prisons for media, independent civil society groups, and diplomatic representatives. Officials sometimes barred access to investigative journalists.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future