Unwholesome Prison Blues: A Call to Protect International Prisoners’ Rights and Standardise Conditions of Detention

Authors Marc Gevers & Gustav Muller

ISSN: 2522-3062
Affiliations: LLB (University of Pretoria). LLM Student in the Department of Private Law, University of Pretoria; LLB LLD (Stellenbosch University), Diploma (Åbo Akademi). Senior Lecturer in the Department of Private Law, University of Pretoria.
Source: Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa, The, Volume 51 Issue 1, p. 75 – 108


With an ever-increasing focus on human rights to deal with violations and atrocities across the world, prisoners and their rights are left by the wayside too often. While deprivation of liberty is expected upon incarceration, prisoners are still entitled to certain basic and universal human rights. Despite this, and despite the international community having a set of standard rules, popular opinion and general vindictive behaviour sees prisoners being stripped of their basic human rights. Not only should these rights be afforded to them based on principles of justice, but if rehabilitation is to be rightly effected, then it is essential that standards for the treatment and conditions of detention of prisoners exist – and that these standards are enforced, and not just suggested. As such, a justice system which reacts to violations is inefficient, and the minimum standards in place, which are more like guidelines, need to be replaced by a proactive system and by mandatory international standards that can be effected in any State despite circumstance or resources. Such will result in a prison system that not only maintains and encourages the humanity in prisoners, allowing them to re-enter society, but also humanises society itself.