Chile: Achievement of Human Rights in the Chilean Prison System

Start date: 
Wednesday, November 28, 2001
End date: 
Monday, April 4, 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 offenders.

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.