Start date: 
Tuesday, May 1, 2001
End date: 
Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Between 2001 and March 2003 ICPS worked in partnership with the Chilean Ministry of Justice, the Gendarmería de Chile, the British Embassy and the British Council on a prison reform project funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which formed part of a wider programme of criminal justice reform initiated by the Government of Chile.

Throughout the course of the project the ICPS Projects Director and an Associate worked as consultants to a project team within the planning department of the national prison service. The work focussed on developing and piloting a model of strategic planning for the implementation of human rights in prisons based on international standards. This plan was developed by the project team and approved by the Ministry of Justice and national prisons director.

The Ministry chose Valparaiso, one of the biggest regions in the prison system, for the first pilot project. A core group of staff was trained in the regional office and in each of the prisons involved; they went on to involve staff in each prison in the principles of a human rights approach to prison management. Feedback and observation demonstrated that relationships between staff and prisoners improved and that staff attitudes and behaviour had become more professional. Examples of the effects of the project included:

staff training on humane treatment of prisoners

• introduction of information leaflets for newly admitted prisoners

• improved hygiene

• greater equality of treatment for female prisoners

• a new approach to health management in one prison

• considerable change to the punishment cells

• an increase in the number of prisoners involved in work

• community links for the provision of education and library services,

• improved links with community organisations to help the resettlement of


Phase 2

The second phase of the project was formally launched in July 2003 with the signing of a partnership agreement by the Minister of Justice, the British Ambassador, the Director General of the prison Service and the Director of the British Council. The three main objectives of this phase were:

• To extend to all regions the strategic plan for the implementation of human rights

in prisons based on international standards

• To examine the implications for the national headquarters and its current business

processes of adopting this strategic planning approach

• To integrate other major initiatives, such as the construction of new prisons,

within the strategic planning framework.

As part of its criminal justice policy, the Chilean government also introduced new alternatives to custody. An ICPS Associate, who was a former Chief Probation Officer in England, was invited to the Ministry of Justice in November 2003 to discuss proposals for these changes.

In 2004 the project team concentrated on four main areas:

·         Working with the senior management team at headquarters and the Regional Directors to develop a strategic planning model based on international human rights standards, and to develop business processes to support the delivery of human rights to prisoners and staff. This work complemented the work which had been developed in the pilot programme in the earlier stages of the project.

·         Implementing the roll-out of the strategic planning process developed in the Region of Valparaiso to all the regions for a comprehensive, organisation wide human rights approach to the management of prisons.

·         Integrating the major initiative of the new ‘concession’ prisons within the strategic planning framework to ensure these prisons met the international standards for human rights as they opened.

·         Developing the Training School curriculum to incorporate the learning from the project.

In the second half of 2004 the project included three visits to the United Kingdom. The first was by the Minister of Justice, Señor Luis Bates Hidalgo, and the second by the Director Nacional of the Gendarmería, Señor Juan Carlos Perez, and one of his deputies. In November 2004 there was a more detailed visit for a key group of senior prison managers.

2005 saw the completion of the prison improvement project in Chile which began in 2001. In 2005 the ICPS consultants re-visited all of the prisons which were involved in the Valparaiso pilot (2002/3) and a further eight prisons in two of the regions of Chile. In all but one of the prisons there was evidence of both improved conditions and improved morale in staff.

Whilst much remained to be done improvements were found in atmosphere, security, cleanliness, activity levels, and staff/prisoner relations. Some very old prisons had made enormous strides, becoming excellent examples of what could be achieved in small, old prisons close to the community. In other prisons the improvements were more modest, but nevertheless the direction was positive. Most importantly the consultants gained the impression that the management teams running the prisons had a clear direction, an enthusiasm for seeing new possibilities and a concern to make further progress.

In one large prison complex there were signs that the improvement process which had been promising had somehow stalled. This may have been linked to the escape and subsequent recapture of a serious offender which had damaged morale in the previous year. At the last meeting with the Justice Minister, on 14th October 2005, he and the Deputy Minister both expressed their delight at the improvements achieved within planned expenditure. From a starting point when “Human Rights” was perceived within the authorities as something which was used as a vehicle for adverse criticism by pressure groups, by the end of the project it had become the basis of the management approach of Prison Governors, their staff and the policy makers at HQ and in the Ministry.