The Grenada Revolution Online

Standard Minimum Rules
for the Treatment of Prisoners

Approved by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, 31 July 1957 (resolution 663 C I (XXIV)),
on the recommendation of the First Congress



Basic principle

The following rules are to be applied without discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political opinions, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

It is necessary, however, to respect religious beliefs of prisoners.


A bound registration book shall be maintained with the identity, reasons for commitment and day and hour of admission and release of prisoners.

Separation of categories

Men and women in detention are to be held in separate facilities; likewise, untried and convicted prisoners, those imprisoned for civil offences and criminal offenders, and youths and adults shall be housed separately.


Cells for individuals should not be used to accommodate two or more persons overnight; dormitory facilities are to be supervised at night.

Cells and prison dormitories should provide adequate space, ventilation, lighting and sanitary facilities and are to be kept clean at all times.

Personal hygiene

Prisoners shall be provided with adequate water and toilet articles,and required to keep themselves clean.

Clothing and bedding

Prisoners not allowed to wear their own clothing are to be provided with an adequate and suitable outfit, with provisions for laundry and changes of clothes.

Prisoners outside an institution for an authorized purpose are to be allowed to wear their own clothing.

Every prisoner shall be provided with a separate bed and clean, separate and sufficient bedding.


Wholesome, well-prepared food is to be provided prisoners at usual hours.

Drinking water shall be available whenever needed.

Exercise and sport

If not employed in outdoor work, every prisoner shall have at least one hour of exercise in the open air, weather permitting.

Young prisoners and others of suitable age and physique are to receive physical and recreational training.

Medical services

A medical officer with some knowledge of psychiatry is to be available to every institution.

Prisoners requiring specialized treatment are to be transferred to a civil hospital or appropriate facility.

A qualified dental officer shall be available to every prisoner.

Prenatal and post-natal care and treatment are to be provided by women's institutions; where nursing infants are allowed to remain with their mothers, a nursery staffed by qualified persons is needed.

Every prisoner shall be examined by the medical officer shortly after admission; prisoners suspected of contagious diseases are to be segregated.

The medical officer shall see all sick prisoners daily, along with those who complain of illness or are referred to his attention.

The medical officer is to report to the director on prisoners whose health is jeopardized by continued imprisonment and on the quality of the food, hygiene, bedding, clothing and physical regimen of the prisoners.

Discipline and punishment

Discipline shall be no more restrictive than what is necessary to ensure custody and order.

No prisoner shall be employed in a disciplinary capacity.

The types of conduct to be considered offences and punishments for them shall be set by law or regulation, and prisoners are to be allowed to defend themselves against charges.

Cruel, inhuman and/or degrading punishments, including corporal punishment and restriction to a dark cell, shall be prohibited.

The medical officer is to be consulted before implementing any punishment that may be prejudicial to the physical or mental health of a prisoner.

Instruments of restraint

Handcuffs, strait-jackets and other instruments of restraint are never to be applied as a punishment, and irons and chains are not to be used as means of restraint.

Information to and complaints by prisoners

Upon admission, prisoners shall be informed of the regulations they are to live by and of authorized channels for seeking information and making complaints.

Prisoners are to have the right to make complaints to the director of the institution, as well as to the central prison administration and the judicial authority, in the proper form but without censorship as to substance, and they are to have the opportunity to speak directly to an inspector of prisons outside the presence of institutional staff members.

Unless evidently frivolous, each complaint shall be replied to promptly.

Contact with the outside world

Prisoners are to be allowed regular contact with family and friends, by both correspondence and personal visits.

Prisoners who are foreign nationals shall be allowed communication with diplomatic and consular representatives of their State, or a State or international authority that has taken charge of their interests.

Prisoners are to be kept informed of current events and important items of news.


Every institution shall maintain for the use of prisoners a library with recreational and instructional books.


If the institution contains a sufficient number of prisoners of the same religion, a qualified representative of each religion shall be appointed to hold services and pay pastoral visits.

No prisoner shall be refused access to a qualified representative of a religion, nor shall he be required to entertain a religious visit he objects to.

As far as is practicable, every prisoner is to be allowed to satisfy religious needs by attending services and possessing books of observance and instruction.

Retention of prisoners' property

Money, valuables and personal effects which prisoners are not allowed to keep in their possession are to be kept in safe custody until the prisoner's release.

Money or effects received by a prisoner from outside shall be treated the same way.

The medical officer is to decide what uses shall be made of drugs or medicine a prisoner brings with him.

Notification of death, illness, transfer, etc.

The spouse or nearest relative shall be informed of the death, serious illness, injury or transfer of a prisoner to an institution for treatment of mental afflictions.

A prisoner is to be informed at once of the death or serious illness of any near relative. In cases of critical illness, the prisoner is to be allowed to visit that relative.

Every prisoner shall have ected from insult, curiosity or publicity.

Conveyances which subject prisoners being transferred to unnecessary hardship shall be prohibited.

Transport is to be at the expense of the prison administration, and equal conditions shall obtain for all prisoners.

Institution personnel

The administration shall carefully select every grade of personnel and maintain in their minds and the public's the important social service they provide.

To these ends, pay, conditions and benefits shall be suitable to professional and exacting service.

Personnel are to be sufficiently educated, and to receive on going courses and training.

As far as possible, personnel should include psychiatric, social work and education professionals.

The director shall be a qualified administrator, retained on a full time basis and residing on the premises or in the immediate vicinity.

Staff personnel are to be able to speak the language of the greatest number of prisoners, and to retain the services of an interpreter when necessary.

In larger institutions, at least one medical officer should reside on the premises or in the immediate vicinity.

In others, a medical officer shall visit daily and reside near enough to be available for emergencies.

In an institution for both men and women, the part set aside for women shall be under the authority of a woman officer, who shall have custody of the keys for that section.

Male officers shall enter the section for women only in the presence of a woman officer, and women prisoners shall be attended and treated only by women officers, without precluding male doctors and teachers from carrying out their duties.

Officers shall not use force except in self-defence, cases of attempted escape or resistance to an order based on law or regulation. Officers who have recourse to force must use no more than is strictly necessary and must report the incident immediately.

Prison officers are to receive physical training in the use of force. As a general rule, they should not carry weapons in the presence of prisoners.


There shall be regular inspection of penal institutions.




Guiding principles

The prison system must not aggravate unnecessarily the suffering inherent in a prisoner/s loss of self-determination and liberty.

Prisons should utilize all remedial, educational, medical and spiritual forms of assistance to treat the prisoner's needs and facilitate his return to society as a law-abiding member.

It is desirable to provide varying degrees of security according to the needs of different groups of prisoners. Open prisons that rely on self-discipline as opposed to physical restraint are preferable whenever possible.

Government or private agencies should be available for the aftercare of released prisoners.


Treatment of prisoners under sentence shall be directed to achieve the capacity for law-abiding and self-supporting lives, utilizing professional services whenever possible.

The director shall receive full reports on the mental, social and physical status of prisoners under sentence of a suitable length directly after admission, keeping and updating this information in individual files.

Classification and individualization

To separate from others those prisoners who are likely to exercise a negative influence and to facilitate specialized treatment, prisoners are to be classified, and kept so far as possible in separate institutions or sections.


Systems of privileges appropriate to different classes of prisoners shall be established to encourage proper conduct and secure the cooperation of prisoners in their treatment.


Prison labour must not be of an afflictive nature.

All prisoners under sentence shall be required to work, unless determined to be physically or medically unfit.

So far as possible, the work should be of a full-time nature, conducive to vocational training and aligned with the choice of prisoners.

The interests and vocational training of prisoners are of greater importance than making a financial profit from their labour.

Institutional labour preferably will be directed by prison administrators rather than private contractors. When prisoners are employed in work not controlled by the administration, they should be under the supervision of the institution's personnel and the administration should be paid the normal wages for such work, unless the contractor is another government agency.

Precautions laid down to protect the safety and health of free workmen shall likewise be respected for prison labourers.

Maximum days and hours of work shall be fixed by law or regulation, taking into account local rules or customs regarding the employment of free workmen and to leave one rest day a week and sufficient time for education and treatment.

Prisoners are to be remunerated equitably, allowed to spend part of their earnings on approved articles for their own use, send a part to their families and set aside some in a savings fund.

Education and recreation

The ongoing education of prisoners is to be facilitated, and schooling of illiterates and youthful prisoners is to be considered compulsory.

Recreational and cultural activities are to be made available.

Social relations and after-care

Special attention shall be paid to maintaining and improving relations between a prisoner and his family.

The prisoner should be encouraged and assisted in cultivating relations with persons or extra-institutional agencies conducive to his rehabilitation and best interests after release.

Upon release, prisoners shall be provided with appropriate documents and identification papers, be suitably clothed and have sufficient means to reach their immediate destinations. They are to be assisted by services or agencies in locating suitable homes and work.

Representatives of such agencies shall have access to prisoners during their term of incarceration and be taken into consultation as to the future of each prisoner from the beginning of his sentence.


Persons found to be insane are not to be detained in prisons.

Prisoners suffering from other mental abnormalities shall be observed and treated in specialized institutions under medical management and steps shall be taken to ensure the continuation of care after release.


Unconvicted prisoners are presumed to be innocent and shall be treated as such.

They shall be held separately from convicted prisoners, and the young kept separate from adults.

Prisoners awaiting trial are to sleep singly in separate rooms.

They may have food procured at their own expense; otherwise, the administration shall provide food.

An untried prisoner shall be allowed to wear his own clothing if clean and suitable; if he wears prison dress, it is to be different from that of convicted prisoners.

An untried prisoner may procure at his own expense or that of a third party books, publications and writing materials.

Treatment by an untried prisoner's own doctor or dentist is to be allowed under reasonable grounds, and if the prisoner is willing to pay for the expenses incurred.

An untried prisoner shall be allowed to inform his family of his detention immediately after arrest and communicate with and receive visits from family and friends.

He shall be allowed to apply for free legal aid where such aid is available, and to consult with his legal adviser regarding his defence.Such interviews may be within sight but not within the hearing of a police or institution official.


Where law permits imprisonment for debt or by order of a noncriminal court, those so imprisoned shall be subjected to no greater restriction or severity than necessary for safe custody and good order. Their treatment shall be no less favourable than that accorded untried prisoners, with the reservation that they may be required to work.


Persons arrested or imprisoned without charge shall be accorded the same protection as other prisoners, without prejudice to the provisions of Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


The full text of International Standards, Guidelines, Model Treaties and other instruments regarding the prevention and control of crime can be obtained from:

Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Branch Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs Vienna International Centre P.O. Box 500 A-1400 Vienna, Austria

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