Publications

Richard T. Wolf

Reflections on a Government Model of Correctional Oversight


Description:

This article provides a case study of the New York City Board of Correction as a form of independent government oversight of a major jail system, describing the strengths and weaknesses of this model of oversight and offering recommendations for other jurisdictions that are seeking to establish a correctional oversight body.


Wolf, Richard T. “Reflections on a Government Model of Correctional Oversight.” Pace Law Review 30, no. 5 (2010): 1621–24.

Silvia Casale

The Importance of Dialogue and Co-operation in Prison Oversight


Description:

Dr. Silvia Casale, the then-President of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), discusses the role that supranational treaty bodies such as the United Nation’s Subcommittee on Prevention Against Torture (SPT) play in monitoring conditions in European prisons. These oversight bodies, which are neutral observers with access to places of detention throughout Europe, must build trust and rely on cooperation with corrections officials and state government leaders in order to fulfill a goal of preventing future abuse. They accomplish this goal by steering away from laying blame and working towards finding solutions to problems. The essay also highlights that reports written by the CPT and SPT about these conditions are confidential, but that most countries publish the reports on their own volition.


Casale, Silvia. “The Importance of Dialogue and Co-Operation in Prison Oversight.” Pace Law Review 30, no. 5 (Fall 2010): 1490–1502.

Howard Sapers & Ivan Zinger

The Ombudsman as a Monitor of Human Rights in Canadian Federal Corrections


Description:

This article frames corrections through a human rights lens and discusses the ways in which a balance between internal accountability mechanisms and external monitoring can prevent human rights breakdowns, detect violations when they occur, and prevent violations from occurring in the future. The Canadian prison system is offered as a case study for effective correctional oversight.


Sapers, Howard, and Ivan Zinger. “The Ombudsman as a Monitor of Human Rights in Canadian Federal Corrections.” Pace Law Review 30, no. 5 (Fall 2010): 1512–28.

David Fathi

The Challenge of Prison Oversight


Description:

This article describes the decline in federal-court oversight of U.S. prisons and jails, and it examines the dearth of other oversight mechanisms. It also discusses the guidelines on best practices in oversight that the American Bar Association provides in its Standards on the Treatment of Prisoners.


Fathi, David. “The Challenge of Prison Oversight.” American Criminal Law Review 47, no. 4 (Fall 2010): 1453–62.

Sharon Dolovich

Cruelty, Prison Conditions, and the Eighth Amendment


Description:

This law review article examines prison conditions through the lens of the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. The author argues that, in order for this prohibition to be meaningful in a society where incarceration is the primary mode of criminal punishment, it is necessary to determine when prison conditions are cruel. The article considers the doctrinal standards that would best capture this understanding of prison conditions.


Dolovich, Sharon. “Cruelty, Prison Conditions, and the Eighth Amendment.” New York Law Review 84, no. 4 (October 2009): 881–979.

American Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section

ABA's Key Requirements for the Effective Monitoring of Correctional and Detention Facilities


Description:

Passed in 2008, this landmark resolution calls on all levels of government to establish correctional oversight bodies and outlines reasons why correctional institutions should become more transparent and accountable to the public. The Resolution also details what such oversight bodies should look like and sets forth a checklist of the elements necessary to make a correctional oversight body effective. The Resolution is a guiding force in efforts to create oversight bodies around the country, and a touchstone to assess the quality of any oversight structures that do exist. 


American Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section. “Key Requirements for the Effective Monitoring of Correctional and Detention Facilities.” Aug. 2008.

Ivan Zinger

Human Rights Compliance and the Role of External Prison Oversight


Description:

This article assesses the Correctional Service of Canada’s (CSC’s) compliance with international human rights standards for prisoners, discusses the role of the Office of the Correctional Investigator and provincial Ombudsman offices as external oversight mechanisms that monitors prisons to assess compliance with these standards, and offers proposals to strengthen oversight and improve human rights in Canadian prisons.


Zinger, Ivan. “Human Rights Compliance and the Role of External Prison Oversight.” Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice 48, no. 2 (April 2006): 127–40.

John J. Gibbons & Nicholas de B. Katzenbach

Confronting Confinement: A Report of the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons


Description:

This report is the culmination of a year-long study of jail and prison conditions in the U.S. conducted by the Vera Institute of Justice’s Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons—a national group of civic leaders, corrections administrators, scholars, advocates, police officers, religious community members and former prisoners. The report details the Commission’s findings demonstrating widespread abuse, medical neglect, lack of data, and discontent on the part of both staff and incarcerated people.  Among the report’s numerous recommendations is a call for increased independent oversight of prisons and jails along with improved data transparency.


Gibbons, John J., and Nicholas de B. Katzenbach. “Confronting Confinement: A Report of the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons.” Vera Institute of Justice, 2006.

Andrew Coyle

Humanity in Prison: Questions of Definition and Audit


Description:

This report introduces an audit instrument that can be used as a mechanism for ensuring humane treatment in prisons. It is intended for broad use either by prison administrators or by independent investigators. The audit instrument uses an exhaustive questionnaire addressing virtually all facets of prison life and administration and it relies primarily on qualitative measures.


Coyle, Andrew. Humanity in Prison: Questions of Definition and Audit. London: International Centre for Prison Studies, 2003.

Joanne Mariner

Behind Bars in America


Description:

This article focuses on the lack of prison and jail oversight in the United States in terms of its impact upon the human rights of prisoners. The author highlight the disparity between this lack of oversight and the effective monitoring of prison conditions that takes place overseas. 


Mariner, Joanne. “Behind Bars in America.” American Bar Association, April 1, 2002. https://www.americanbar.org/groups/crsj/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/human_rights_vol29_2002/spring2002/hr_spring02_mariner/.

Penal Reform International

Making Standards Work: An International Handbook on Good Prison Practice (2nd Ed.)


Description:

This publication advocates an integrated approach to prison inspection, recommending a combination of internal and external, official and unofficial, national, regional, and universal mechanisms for oversight. All recommendations included in this volume are grounded in the United Nations’ Standard Minimum Rules (SMR).


Penal Reform International. Making Standards Work: An International Handbook on Good Prison Practice. 2nd ed. London: Astron Printers Ltd., 2001.