When U.S. President Barack Obama visited the El Reno Correctional Facility in Oklahoma last week to check on living conditions of prisoners incarcerated there, no one in authority could prevent him from visiting the prison.
François Kouamé, prisoner Number 67, proudly shows off a sow and her four piglets. Dressed in his rubber boots, he passes by two new tractors as he happily makes his way to a field where pretty soon cassava and corn plants will start growing. “Look at those sprouts. It is a lot of work!”
A nurse helps an old man up from his chair. Holding onto her arms, he steps blindly forward, trusting her to lead him to his spot at the lunch table.
He has not had human contact or a good night’s sleep in nearly three decades. Every single day, he wakes to the sound of metal doors clanging open and a pair of disembodied hands pushing a tray of food through a slot into his 64-square-foot cell.
Countries in nearly every region of the world are continuing to turn to a U.S.-led model of prison privatisation despite mounting evidence that such systems are often neither cost-efficient nor able to provide adequate services.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has directed the Justice Department to institute a slew of major reforms to federal charging policies that have long required automatic prison time for even minor drug offences.
The research wing of the U.S. Congress is warning that three decades of “historically unprecedented” build-up in the number of prisoners incarcerated in the United States have led to a level of overcrowding that is now “taking a toll on the infrastructure” of the federal prison system.
Tucked away from the scrutiny of civil society, Mongolia’s jails epitomise the limits of democracy in this county of 2.8 million people, where marginalised members of society often bear the brunt of a corrupt and under-resourced justice system.
Chile is releasing and deporting foreign inmates, mainly in prison on drug trafficking charges, as part of a broader attempt at improving conditions in this country’s overcrowded prisons.