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Proliferation and Implementation of Prison Ombudsmen

Comparative Analysis of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman for England and Wales and the Justizvollzugsbeauftragter des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen


Sabine Carl

Prison ombudsmen are charged with investigating claims of injustice and breaches of human rights within the total institutions of the penal system. This book comprehensively explains which needs these institutions were intended to meet, why they spread around the globe and how their proliferation determined their implementation. Using a grounded theory approach, the author examines one subject each from both the common and civil law world. The result is a detailed analysis of the acute impact of pressure on cross-fertilization processes involving human rights-sensitive penal institutions.


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A Introduction


Prisoners are denied their rights and lose their lives in prisons around the world every day. In England and Wales 60 to 100 people lose their lives in prison eve- ry year due to non-natural causes, which amounts to approximately one death every five days.1 As so called “total institutions”, prisons are by definition closed environ- ments designed to deprive the individual of a range of personal freedoms.2 With the progressing renunciation of the death penalty, imprisonment constitutes the most severe form of state-imposed punishment for the commission of a crime. Thus, it is astonishing that “society as a whole is less than interested about what happens behind [prison] walls” leaving prisons to “operate outside the normal controls and processes of society”.3 In spite of this societal disinterest, it is now commonly acknowledged that “[j]ustice does not stop at the prison doors” and that “[p]unishment and impris- onment have meaning [only] if, while maintaining the demands of justice and discouraging crime, they serve the rehabilitation of the individual by offering those who have made a mistake an opportunity to reflect and to change their lives in order to be fully reintegrated into society”4. To this end, the state must not curtail rights beyond what is necessary (freedom of movement, assembly etc.).5 Yet, when- and wherever humans regularly exercise authority over others, unintentional as well as deliberate grievances of both petty and serious nature occur. These may concern anything from property to hygiene with issues esca-...

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