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Article

Covid-19 Emergency Prison Release Policy: A Public Health Imperative and a Rule of Law Challenge

Journal European Journal of Law Reform, Issue 4 2020
Keywords emergency prison release, rule of law, democracy, reducing prison overcrowding, prisoner rights, appropriate sanctions for white collar criminals, alternatives to custodial sentences
Authors Victoria Jennett
AbstractAuthor's information

    Many countries are implementing emergency releases of people from prison to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. Such measures, while critical to public health, can enable the unjust release from prison of politically connected and wealthy individuals convicted of corruption offences, thereby undermining the rule of law and democratic values by weakening public trust in the justice system. To reduce overcrowding of prisons while ensuring that white-collar criminals are appropriately sanctioned, one strategy is to impose alternatives to custodial sentences that ensure appropriate sanctioning of convicted criminals while de-densifying prisons – an approach that could be considered for non-emergency times as well.
    Main points:

    • Emergency prison release mechanisms to prevent the spread of Covid-19 can pose corruption risks owing to weak design, uneven implementation and inadequate oversight.

    • Such releases take three main forms: prisoner amnesties declared by governments; emergency release procedures drafted by governments and implemented by prison directors; and court decisions to release individual prisoners or set out frameworks to determine who is eligible for release.

    • These emergency procedures can enable the unjust release of politically connected prisoners convicted of corruption offences and undermine public trust in the rule of law and the justice system.

    • To help maintain rule of law during the emergency, alternatives to custodial sentences in line with international standards can be imposed on newly released persons who have been convicted of corruption crimes.

    • Conditions attached to releases can include, among others, status penalties, economic sanctions and monetary penalties, confiscation or expropriation of assets, and restitution or compensation to victims.

    • In non-emergency times, as well, alternatives to custodial sentences can be used to sanction those convicted of corruption crimes as a means to mitigate financial and social damage caused by corruption and reduce prison overcrowding.


Victoria Jennett
Dr. Victoria Jennett is an independent consultant to governments and international organisations on justice sector reform. She acknowledges the insights from Sofie Arjon Shuette at the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, UNODC colleagues and prison officials in the UK and the USA on an earlier version of this paper.

    The years 2018-2020 saw a number of new international legal instruments and guidelines relating to restorative justice. In 2018, a landmark Recommendation adopted by the Council of Europe and a Resolution by the Organization of American States encouraged its use in their regions. In 2019, the Milquet Report proposed amending a European Union Directive to promote restorative justice as a diversion from court, while in 2020, the European Union adopted a new Victims’ Strategy, and the United Nations published a revised Handbook on Restorative Justice Programmes. This article identifies and analyses the principal developments in this new international framework. It demonstrates the growing consensus on the potential applicability of restorative justice for all types of offences, and the emerging recognition that restorative justice should aim to satisfy the needs of all participants. It also explores statements endorsing the use of restorative justice beyond the criminal procedure and advising criminal justice institutions to utilise restorative principles to inform cultural change. The paper concludes that implementing international policies domestically requires justice reform advocates to build strong, trusting relationships, and organise inclusive partnerships, with all those who hold a stake in the development of restorative justice.


Ian D. Marder
Ian D. Marder is a Lecturer in Criminology at the Department of Law of the Maynooth University, Maynooth, Republic of Ireland. Contact author: Ian.Marder@mu.ie.
Article

Exploring amenability of a restorative justice approach to address sexual offences

Journal The International Journal of Restorative Justice, Issue 2 2020
Keywords Restorative justice, sexual abuse, victim-survivor, justice attitudes, gender
Authors Angela Hovey, BJ Rye and Courtney McCarney
AbstractAuthor's information

    This study aimed to explore current attitudes regarding the amenability of a restorative justice approach to addressing harms caused by sexual offences. A web-based survey of a university student sample included a specific narrative response question assessing empathetic responses to stepfather-teen sexual abuse scenarios. Many (78 per cent) participants endorsed a restorative justice approach, a substantial minority (19 per cent) of whom endorsed restorative justice while stipulating retributive justice conditions. Only 22 per cent completely rejected a restorative justice approach. The overarching theme was the dichotomous opinion of restorative justice as either a sufficient (e.g. best option, rehabilitative value) or insufficient (e.g. not enough punishment) response to addressing sexual offences. There was an overall self-reflective openness and willingness to consider a restorative justice approach to address sexual offences.


Angela Hovey
Angela Hovey, PhD, RSW, is an associate professor at the School of Social Work, Lakehead University, Orillia, Canada.

BJ Rye
BJ Rye, PhD, is an associate professor at the Departments of Psychology and Sexuality, Marriage, and Family Studies, St Jerome's University at the University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada.

Courtney McCarney
Courtney McCarney, MSW, RSW is a graduate of the School of Social Work, Lakehead University, Orillia, Canada. Contact author: Angela Hovey at ahovey@lakeheadu.ca
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