Initial training should be mandatory for new prison staff, to prepare them for their role. These training programmes should be based on a clear understanding of the purpose of prison work. They should be as participatory as possible and include theoretical and practical training and assessment. There are no standards on the appropriate length of initial training programmes. However, they must be sufficient to provide staff with an understanding of the principles of what their role involves and the operational and technical knowledge and skills to carry out their work.
Content of initial training
Initial training programmes should include:
Understanding of the role of prison in society and prisons as very special places, as closed institutions with its very specific characteristics.
The principles underpinning prison work: the dignity and humanity of everyone in the prison, as well as human rights standards and principles of equality and non-discrimination.
The technical skills required for prison work (e.g. security technology, checking detainees, supervision, record-keeping and reporting, the use of force, physical restraint and searches etc.) and how these are put in practice in line with the principles outlined above.
Interpersonal communication skills, including how to build positive relations with detainees, lower tensions and defuse situations without using force (also known as dynamic security).
Further professional development
Further professional development opportunities should be provided to prison staff at regular intervals throughout their career, to ensure they maintain knowledge and capacity, and are aware of latest concepts and techniques relevant to their role. This is also important for maintaining staff motivation and retention. Such opportunities can include: internal training, training in specialised centres with staff from other prisons/government sectors, national qualifications, opportunities for training in related fields (social work etc.). There should be no discrimination in relation to professional development opportunities. Women prison staff and those belonging to minority groups must have the same access to further training as other staff. .
Training for prison staff working with detainees in situations of vulnerability
Prison staff should receive equality and diversity training on how to respect the rights and meet the specific needs of detainees in situations of vulnerability, and the skills necessary for working with them.
All prison staff should receive training in cultural diversity, which builds awareness of the different perceptions and experiences of indigenous and ethnic minority groups in prisons. This training should equip staff to avoid of using stereotypes, stigmas or assumptions. It should include practical information about other cultures and religious practices, including different behaviour and attitudes towards prison life, criminality and life in general, to assist staff in developing appropriate behaviour and language.
All prison staff should receive disability awareness training, to raise awareness of mental and physical disabilities, break down stigmatising attitudes and highlight that detainees with disabilities have the same human rights as all other detainees. Training should enable staff to identify, effectively supervise and care for detainees with disabilities. This includes ensuring that persons with disabilities have the same access to services and benefits as other detainees and are protected from discrimination, violence or abuse by prison staff or other detainees. It also includes training on basic mental health issues and the prevention of suicides.
All prison staff should be trained on protecting the rights and meeting the needs of LGBTI detainees, including the differences between sexual orientation and sexual identity and the specific sub-groups included in the LGBTI acronym. This training should raise awareness on issues of gender identity and sexual orientation and dismantle prejudices and assumptions about LBGTI persons and detainees. Prison staff should be trained on the absolute prohibition of torture or other ill-treatment of LGBTI detainees; considerations relating to LGBTI detainees in the conduct of operational procedures (classification, placement, searches); appropriate measures to protect LGBTI detainees from victimisation (e.g. from violence and abuse by other detainees).
Prison staff working with foreign national detainees (whether in pre-trial detention, convicted of a criminal offence or administratively detained due to their migration status) should receive training on the rights, specific needs and challenges faced by foreign nationals in prison, including how language barriers can impede their access to rights, services and benefits. These training programmes should cover consular rights, immigration procedures and how to minimise detainees’ uncertainties regarding their immigration status.
It should be noted that under international standards, persons detained because of their migration status should not be held in prisons or prison-like settings at all. Prison staff working with immigration detainees should be trained to understand that as such persons are not convicted or suspected of a criminal offence, their detention must not be punitive in nature and should resemble as far as possible life in the outside world (e.g. in terms of clothing, freedom of movement inside detention, access to activities and visitation rights etc.).
Prison staff working with women detainees should be trained on the gender specific needs and human rights of women. This training should address prejudices about women detainees and assist prison staff to understand the disproportionate impact of imprisonment on women and how to minimise this, as well as how to meet their specific protection and health care needs. Staff should also be properly trained on the operational procedures that are designed to protect the rights and dignity of women (for example, on gender sensitivity in the conduct of body searches).
Prison staff working with children should be trained on the rights, special considerations and protection needs of children in prison because of their young age and vulnerability. This includes international standards on the rights of the child and the principle of the best interest of the child, as well as basic training on child psychology and child welfare. Where children are allowed to stay with mothers in prison, staff should receive awareness-raising on child development and basic training on health care of children to be able to respond in times of need and emergency.
Training for prison management
The prison management (the director and deputies of a prison) require specialised skills and have an important impact on the culture of a prison. Managers should be provided with extensive management skill training. This applies to managers who are externally recruited for the position as well as those who are promoted within the prison (as experience in operational prison work can be an asset for managers, but it does not necessarily provide the specific skills required for managing). They should also be given regular opportunities for further training.
Training for specialised staff working in prisons
Technical staff members (e.g. medical doctors, teachers etc. who sometimes report to other Ministries) should be trained on the specificities of carrying out their professional role in the prison context, including their ethical obligations. For example, the first responsibility of medical staff in prisons is to consider detainees as patients and treat them as such. Dilemmas arising in this context should be explicitly included in this training. Medical staff should also be trained on the specific health care needs of groups in situations of vulnerability in prison, for example women, children, persons with disabilities and LBGTI detainees. Technical staff should also receive the same basic training as custodial staff, to the extent they have comparable responsibility for control and treatment of detainees.
Link to institutional policy and culture
In order to be effective, prison staff training programmes should be based on an institutional vision for staff professionalism and part of a coherent approach to staff professional development. Training must be clearly supported by and linked to institutional policy. This means that the principles and practices imparted must be supported by the vision, mission, policies and operating procedures of the prison. Management and supervisors must be trained in and committed to applying these principles and practices.
Theoretical and practical training phases should be organized in a way that concrete practice is systematically reflected in the light of human rights principles.
Training sessions can be a setting in which new recruits are socialised into the culture of the prison. The way in which they are conducted can give strong messages to new recruits about how things are done within the institution and what behaviour is expected and acceptable. Training sessions should therefore be constructive, respectful and non-discriminatory in terms of the content, format and language used.
Legal standards (13) Print
United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules)
1. All prison staff shall possess an adequate standard of education and shall be given the ability and means to carry out their duties in a professional manner.
2. Before entering on duty, all prison staff shall be provided with training tailored to their general and specific duties, which shall be reflective of contemporary evidence-based best practice in penal sciences. Only those candidates who successfully pass the theoretical and practical tests at the end of such training shall be allowed to enter the prison service.
3. The prison administration shall ensure the continuous provision of in service training courses with a view to maintaining and improving the knowledge and professional capacity of its personnel, after entering on duty and during their career.
Training referred to in paragraph 2 of rule 75 shall include, at a minimum, training on:
(a) Relevant national legislation, regulations and policies, as well as applicable international and regional instruments, the provisions of which must guide the work and interactions of prison staff with inmates;
(b) Rights and duties of prison staff in the exercise of their functions, including respecting the human dignity of all prisoners and the prohibition of certain conduct, in particular torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
(c) Security and safety, including the concept of dynamic security, the use of force and instruments of restraint, and the management of violent offenders, with due consideration of preventive and defusing techniques, such as negotiation and mediation [...]
Training referred to in paragraph 2 of rule 75 shall include, at a minimum, training on: [...]
(d) First aid, the psychosocial needs of prisoners and the corresponding dynamics in prison settings, as well as social care and assistance, including early detection of mental health issues.
Prison staff who are in charge of working with certain categories of prisoners, or who are assigned other specialized functions, shall receive training that has a corresponding focus.
United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty
The personnel should receive such training as will enable them to carry out their responsibilities effectively, in particular training in child psychology, child welfare and international standards and norms of human rights and the rights of the child, including the present Rules. The personnel should maintain and improve their knowledge and professional capacity by attending courses of in-service training, to be organized at suitable intervals throughout their career.
Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
g) Undertake programmes of training and awareness-raising for prison personnel and all other officials in the public and private sector who are engaged in detention facilities, regarding international human rights standards and principles of equality and non-discrimination, including to sexual orientation and sexual identity.
c) Undertake programmes of training and awareness-raising for police, prison personnel and all other officials in the public and private sector who are in a position to perpetrate or to prevent such acts.
UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok Rules)
1. All staff assigned to work with women prisoners shall receive training relating to the gender-specific needs and human rights of women prisoners.
2. Basic training shall be provided for prison staff working in women‟s prisons on the main issues relating to women's health, in addition to first aid and basic medicine.
3. Where children are allowed to stay with their mothers in prison, awareness-raising on child development and basic training on the health care of children shall also be provided to prison staff, in order for them to respond appropriately in times of need and emergencies.
United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, A/HRC/28/68, 5 March 2015
81. The Special Rapporteur recommends that States adopt child-friendly administrative and criminal court procedures and train police officers, border guards, detention staff, judges and others who may encounter children deprived of their liberty in child protection principles and a better understanding of the vulnerabilities of children to human rights violations, such as torture and other forms of ill-treatment. Special mention should be made of girls, who are particularly vulnerable, and to special groups of children, such as minorities, disabled children and migrants.
United Nations Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Report to the General Assembly, 30 July 2015, A/70/212
Non-discrimination and promotion of cultural diversity should be part of the professional training of all staff within the criminal justice system.
Minorities should be involved in the training process, including in developing and delivering training modules. Whenever possible, training should be continuous and should target senior staff first, so as to ensure provision of leadership.
Appropriate educational programmes for law enforcement, justice system and prison staff should include material on respect for human rights, tolerance and friendship among racial, ethnic or religious groups, as well as sensitization to intercultural relations and the elimination of discriminatory behaviour (including informal profiling).
Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, A/HRC/31/57, 5 January 2016
With regard to women, girls, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in detention, the Special Rapporteur calls on all States to:
(z) Undertake specific training and capacity-building programmes designed to sensitize law enforcement authorities and detention facility staff to the specific circumstances and unique needs of female and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender prisoners and standards such as the Bangkok Rules.
European prison rules
Before entering into duty, staff shall be given a course of training in their general and specific duties and be required to pass theoretical and practical tests.
Management shall ensure that, throughout their career, all staff maintain and improve their knowledge and professional capacity by attending courses of in-service training and development to be organised at suitable intervals.
Staff who are to work with specific groups of prisoners, such as foreign nationals, women, juveniles or mentally ill prisoners, etc., shall be given specific training for their specialised work.
The training of all staff shall include instruction in the international and regional human rights instruments and standards, especially the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as well as in the application of the European Prison Rules.
Principles and Best Practices on the Protection of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the America
Principle XX – Personnel of places of deprivation of liberty
[...] The personnel of places of deprivation of liberty shall receive initial instruction and periodic specialized training, with an emphasis on the social nature of their work. Such instruction and training shall include, at least, education on human rights; on the rights, duties, and prohibitions in the exercise of their functions; and on national and international principles and rules regarding the use of force, firearms, and physical restraint. For these purposes, the Member States of the Organization of American States shall promote the creation and operation of specialized education and training programs with the participation and cooperation of social institutions and private enterprises.
Extract from the 11th General Report on the CPT's activities [CPT/Inf (2001) 16]
The cornerstone of a humane prison system will always be properly recruited and trained prison staff who know how to adopt the appropriate attitude in their relations with prisoners and see their work more as a vocation than as a mere job. Building positive relations with prisoners should be recognised as a key feature of that vocation
Extract from the 2nd General Report on the CPT's activities [CPT/Inf (92) 3]
Finally, the CPT wishes to emphasise the great importance it attaches to the training of law enforcement personnel1 (which should include education on human rights matters - cf. also Article 10 of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment). There is arguably no better guarantee against the ill- treatment of a person deprived of his liberty than a properly trained police or prison officer. Skilled officers will be able to carry out successfully their duties without having recourse to ill- treatment and to cope with the presence of fundamental safeguards for detainees and prisoners
In this connection, the CPT believes that aptitude for interpersonal communication should be a major factor in the process of recruiting law enforcement personnel and that, during training, considerable emphasis should be placed on developing interpersonal communication skills, based on respect for human dignity. The possession of such skills will often enable a police or prison officer to defuse a situation which could otherwise turn into violence, and more generally, will lead to a lowering of tension, and raising of the quality of life, in police and prison establishments, to the benefit of all concerned
24th General Report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture
All staf, including those with custodial duties, who are in direct contact with juveniles should receive professional training, both during induction and on an ongoing basis, and beneft from appropriate external support and supervision in the exercise of their duties. Particular attention should be given to staf training in the management of violent incidents, especially in verbal de-escalation to reduce tension and professional restraint techniques.
It is the responsibility of the establishments' administration to take special precautions to protect juveniles from all forms of abuse, including sexual or other kinds of exploitation. Staf members should be alert to signs of bullying (including physical and sexual assault, verbal abuse, extortion, and theft of other juveniles' belongings) and should know how to respond accordingly and adopt a pro-active attitude to prevent such incidents from occurring.
Guidelines on the Conditions of Arrest, Police Custody and Pre-Trial Detention in Africa
25. Procedural and other safeguards
States should have in place, and make known, laws, policies and standard operating procedures, which accord with Member States’ obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international law and standards, to:
j. Ensure that there is adequate and efficient staffing in places of detention, and that staff are trained in terms of these Guidelines, including special training on the provisions for vulnerable persons, and subject to effective oversight and accountability mechanisms.
a. States shall ensure that all officials who are involved in the arrest, custody, interrogation and treatment of individuals subject to arrest, police custody and pre-trial detention are properly trained in relation to the provisions of these Guidelines. The provisions of these Guidelines and other relevant guidelines developed by the African Commission pursuant to the African Charter shall be fully incorporated into the curricula of all basic and in-service training.
b. States shall ensure that where places of detention are under the management of, or staffed by, private security organisations, all personnel are properly trained in relation to the provisions and implemen- tation of these Guidelines, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and all other relevant guidelines developed by the African Commission and the United Nations.
Questions for monitors (18) Print
What training do prison staff receive upon appointment?
Is training participatory and does it include theoretical and practical components?
Does initial training cover the human rights principles that underpin prison work?
Do prison staff perceive that the initial training provided them with the knowledge, attitude and skills necessary for performing their job?
Are staff provided with regular further professional development opportunities throughout their career?
Do all staff have equal access to on-going training opportunities (are there any indications of discrimination in access)?
Do managers (prison director and deputies) receive extensive training in the management skills necessary for their role?
How do prison staff perceive the nature/usefulness of training they have received? Are there areas in which prison staff perceive they are lacking/would benefit from further training?
What is the style/nature of prison staff training (respectful, constructive, negative or abusive?).
Are there discrepancies between the message conveyed during training on how to treat detainees and the “way things are done” in reality in the prison?
Do all prison staff receive equality and diversity training on how to respect the rights and meet the needs of groups of detainees in situations of vulnerability?
Do all prison staff receive disability awareness training?
Do all prison staff receive training on respecting the rights and meeting the needs of LGBTI detainees?
Do all prison staff receive training in cultural diversity, to help them understand different cultures and adopt appropriate, non-discriminatory behaviour and language?
Do prison staff working with foreign national detainees receive training on how to respect the rights and meet the specific needs of these detainees?
Do prison staff working with women receive training on the gender specific needs and human rights of women in prison?
Are prison staff working with children trained on the rights, special considerations and protection needs of children in prison?
Do technical staff (medical doctors, teachers etc.) receive training on the specificities of their role in prison, including their ethical obligations in this context?