The Mandela Rules

United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules)

Preliminary observations

Preliminary observation 1

The following rules are not intended to describe in detail a model system of penal institutions. They seek only, on the basis of the general consensus of contemporary thought and the essential elements of the most adequate systems of today, to set out what is generally accepted as being good principles and practice in the treatment of prisoners and prison management.

Preliminary observation 2

1. In view of the great variety of legal, social, economic and geographical conditions in the world, it is evident that not all of the rules are capable of application in all places and at all times. They should, however, serve to stimulate a constant endeavour to overcome practical difficulties in the way of their application, in the knowledge that they represent, as a whole, the minimum conditions which are accepted as suitable by the United Nations.

2. On the other hand, the rules cover a field in which thought is constantly developing. They are not intended to preclude experiment and practices, provided these are in harmony with the principles and seek to further the purposes which derive from the text of the rules as a whole. It will always be justifiable for the central prison administration to authorize departures from the rules in this spirit.

Preliminary observation 3

1. Part I of the rules covers the general management of prisons, and is applicable to all categories of prisoners, criminal or civil, untried or convicted, including prisoners subject to “security measures” or corrective measures ordered by the judge.

2. Part II contains rules applicable only to the special categories dealt with in each section. Nevertheless, the rules under section A, applicable to prisoners under sentence, shall be equally applicable to categories of prisoners dealt with in

sections B, C and D, provided they do not conflict with the rules governing those categories and are for their benefit.

Preliminary observation 4

1. The rules do not seek to regulate the management of institutions set aside for young persons such as juvenile detention facilities or correctional schools, but in general part I would be equally applicable in such institutions.

2. The category of young prisoners should include at least all young persons who come within the jurisdiction of juvenile courts. As a rule, such young persons should not be sentenced to imprisonment.

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