It is of the utmost importance that prison reform not be considered in isolation from broader criminal justice reform. UNODC believes that effective prison reform depends on the improvement and streamlining of criminal justice policies, including crime prevention and sentencing policies, as well as the care and treatment of vulnerable groups in the community. Prison reform should therefore always take into account the needs of the reform of the criminal justice system as a whole and pursue an integrated and multidisciplinary strategy in order to achieve a lasting impact. Therefore, reform initiatives should normally include criminal justice institutions other than the prison system, such as the prosecution service and the police service. Most historians of prisons in the Western world date „the birth of the prison,“ to use Foucault`s phrase, to the late eighteenth century, the Enlightenment and the Euro-American revolutions (see Foucault, 1977; Ignatieff, 1978; Radzinowicz and Hood, 1986; Morris and Rothman, 1995; Gibson, 2011). Before the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the use of prison sentences was limited, and prisons were primarily used to detain debtors, defendants awaiting trial, and convicted persons awaiting punishment, usually flogging, supplies, or hanging (see Barnes, 1921; Blomberg and Lucken, 2010). As strict penal codes and barbaric public rituals of corporal punishment were abolished, incarceration was increasingly used by the courts as a method of punishment and eventually became the most dominant means of punishing offenders. The use of incarceration then spread around the world, often introduced by colonial governments in countries without an indigenous concept of prisons or by indigenous leaders under pressure from Western imperialist powers (see Coyle, 2002; Zinoman, 2001; Bernault, 2003; Dikötter, 2002; Botsman, 2005; Gibson, 2011). In the light of the above considerations, it should be noted that, when considering the cost of detention, account should be taken not only of the actual cost of subsistence of each prisoner, which is normally considerably higher than that incurred by a person sentenced to non-custodial sentences, but also indirect costs.
such as social, economic and health costs, which are difficult to measure but immense and long-term. In 1787, a group of Quaker reformers and other prominent citizens, including Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) and Benjamin Rush (1745-1813), founded the Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Mimishaving of Public Prisons (now known as the Pennsylvania Prison Society). Reformers were shocked by the dirty conditions, lack of discipline and treatment of prisoners. All kinds of prisoners (men, women and children) lived together and had to pay prison guards fees for basic services such as food, clothing and heating. Alcohol was sold by prison guards for profit to prisoners, and prison buildings were not fit for purpose without drinking water and sanitation. As part of its reform strategy, the Society proposed the creation of larger prisons and recommended that inmates be held separately in solitary confinement. Living conditions are improving, but prisoners are constantly locked in their cells. Segregation and silence were expected to foster individual reflection, reform, and rehabilitation—a system that became known as the „Pennsylvania system“ or „separate system“ and influenced significant changes in many prison systems around the world (see Teeters, 1927; Sellin, 1970; Roberts, 1985; see also Pennsylvania Prison Society). The application of non-custodial sanctions and measures also reflects a fundamental shift in the approach to crime, offenders and their place in society by shifting the focus from prison measures from punishment and isolation to restorative justice and reintegration. When accompanied by adequate support for offenders, it helps some of the most vulnerable members of society to live without relapsing into criminal patterns. Thus, the introduction of criminal sanctions within the Community and not through a process of isolation from it offers better long-term protection to society. Supporting the introduction and implementation of non-custodial sanctions and measures is therefore a key element of UNODC`s work on prison reform.
In most societies around the world, there is at least one national or international non-governmental organization working to improve conditions of detention and publicize their rights (see, for example, Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Penal Law Reform International). The central premise that unites the work of prison reformers is the human rights premise that prisoners are human beings and must at all times be treated with „humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person“ (Article 10.1 of the ICCPR (Resolution 2200A (XXI)), regardless of the crimes they have committed. In other words, there are certain rights and freedoms that are fundamental to human existence and cannot be denied or lost, including the fundamental right to security or an adequate standard of living, such as adequate food, water, shelter, sanitation, ventilation, clothing, bedding and adequate movement (see Coyle, 2002; United Nations, 2005; Coyle et al., 2016). Three main aspects must be taken into account in the context of pre-trial detention: first, pre-trial detention is overburdened in most countries of the world and, in many developing countries, the number of persons in pre-trial detention exceeds the number of convicted persons.