DETENTION FOCUS is a database of key issues related to prison around the world.  It is developed from a monitoring and human rights perspective. It offers:

  • In-depth analyses of fundamental issues such as solitary confinement, body searches, family visits, employees’ working conditions, or access to a lawyer.
  • Relevant international or regional standards (binding or not).
  • Practical questions for detention monitors.
  • A targeted bibliography on each subject matter.

A prominent place is given to individuals and groups in situations of vulnerability in detention: women, children, persons living with a disability, LGBTI persons, minorities and indigenous people, as well as foreigners.  Particular attention is given to these groups due to the specific risks of abuse, ill-treatment or discrimination that they face. Users can obtain comprehensive information (e.g. all the international and regional standards in force regarding the detention of children) as well as very targeted information (e.g. medical treatment for transgender people in detention). Search filters allow refinement of the search.

DETENTION FOCUS is a dynamic and interactive tool that offers direct access to specific information, as well as easy navigation from one issue to another.

Who is DETENTION FOCUS aimed at?

The database is intended primarily for people working for independent monitoring bodies, such as National Preventive Mechanisms set up by the OPCAT or National Human Rights Institutions, regional and international monitoring bodies, or civil society organisations. DETENTION FOCUS will also be useful for members of parliament, judges and other stakeholders involved in monitoring activities in penitentiary institutions.

The database is also intended for authorities in charge of detention and employees working in the penitentiary system. The normative framework and the analysis based on good practices can help guide practitioners in the penitentiary field.
DETENTION FOCUS also aims to be a resource for academia, relatives of detainees and any other person interested in detention from a human rights perspective.

How can DETENTION FOCUS be used?

DETENTION FOCUS users can access various topics (approximately 40) through the search engine located at the top right of the screen, where topics appear in alphabetical order. Users can also access the tool using the vertical bar on the left-hand side of the screen where topics are grouped by category (“treatment”, ”safeguards”, “safety, order and discipline”, etc.). For each topic users will find:

  • an introduction summarising key issues;
  • a detailed analysis;
  • all relevant regional and international standards;
  • practical issues with monitoring; and
  • a bibliographical reference.

Each topic or section can be saved in a PDF version or printed directly. It is also possible to only print the monitoring questions, to bring as a check-list during a prison visit.
DETENTION FOCUS can also combine search queries of various topics with a search on groups in situations of vulnerability. These groups can be found at the top left of the screen, and also at all times when the user is looking at the content of a topic. A search combining, for instance, “body searches” with “women” will yield search results of higher relevance for users, including a list of specific standards.


DETENTION FOCUS was completely designed and developed by the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT). The database is hosted on the APT website. A team of researchers and specialists draft the content, which is then reviewed by a sounding board, consisting of internationally recognised experts on the issue of detention. The database has been tested by practitioners, but it is a “living tool” and we welcome feedback from users to further improve it.

Reproduction is authorised, except for commercial purposes, provided that the source is acknowledged.

This project has received funding from:

- Pictet Group Charitable Foundation

- Fonds genevois de répartition des bénéfices de la Loterie Romande

- Services Industriels de Genève

- Canton of Schaffhausen

- Canton and City of Geneva

- Open Society Institute (OSI)

- UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (UK FCO)