Penal Reform International (PRI)

Legal basis (mandates) and mission

PRI is an independent nongovernmental organization (NGO) that develops and promotes fair, effective and proportionate responses to criminal justice problems worldwide and believes in criminal justice systems that are fit for purpose: offenders are held to account, sentences are proportionate, and the primary purpose of prison is rehabilitation not retribution.

PRI advocates for the rights of defendants to a fair trial without delay,and an end to the unnecessary use of imprisonment. PRI promotes alternatives to prison, which support the rehabilitation of offenders and reduce the likelihood of re-offending and promotes the rights of detainees to fair and humane treatment. PRI campaigns for the prevention of torture and the abolition of the death penalty and works to ensure just and appropriate responses to children and women who come into contact with the law. PRI works with intergovernmental organizations to bring about reforms that balance the rights of offenders and of victims,and provides practical assistance to national policy makers, criminal justice authorities and civil society to reform legislation, policy and practice.

PRI's head office is in London. It leads and coordinates cross-regional programmes, international policy and advocacy activities, and is responsible for organizational and financial management. PRI's regional offices in the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, central and eastern Europe, central Asia and the south Caucasus, implement practical programmes and provide technical assistance at a national and regional level. PRI also works with partner organizations in East Africa and South Asia.

PRI has consultative status at the United Nations (UN) (the Economic and Social Council), the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR), the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) and the Council of Europe. PRI is legally registered in the Netherlands.

Topics of interest in the prison setting:

  • Alternatives to imprisonment
  • Abolition of the death penalty
  • Prevention of torture
  • Justice for children deprived of their liberty
  • Proportionate sentencing including life imprisonment
  • Pre-trial justice
  • Prison conditions, including health
  • Rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners
  • Women in the criminal justice system

Strategic operations

PRI works as a catalyst for systemic change through a mix of advocacy and practical programmes for reform and uses its consultative status at the U N and other bodies to provide technical assistance and offer expertise and experience. PRI's work is evidence-based and targeted to the needs of specific beneficiary groups. PRI works in partnership with intergovernmental, governmental and nongovernmental bodies, joining forces to strengthen its voice or providing technical assistance to develop partners' skills and knowledge. PRI supports the role of civil society in promoting criminal justice reforms at the level of legislation, policy and practice. PRI aims to provide value for money for its funders through efficient and effective use of resources. PRI has developed a Theory of Change setting out how it aims to bring about systemic change. The first step is to develop an evidence-base to demonstrate the need for change and to advocate for reform at the international, regional or national level. Where there is a political will to change, PRI provides technical assistance so that legislation and penal policy will enable it to happen; and seeks to build awareness and public support for the change, working with civil society and other organizations. PRI provides training and information resources to develop the skills and capacity of those implementing reform and also seeks to learn lessons from the results in order to spread good practice and knowledge.

PRI aims to be the global leader in the field of penal reform by:

  • identifying trends in criminal justice and penal policy and proposing integrated solutions to problems;
  • testing these in practice and learning from experience;
  • developing new policies, information and training resources to promote reform; and
  • sharing its learning and that of others to establish fair and humane justice systems.

In practical terms, PRI works through:

  • international and regional advocacy – e.g., at the United Nations, the ACHPR, the ACERWC, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Arab League
    developing and promoting international human rights standards related to criminal justice;
  • national advocacy and legislation change;
  • providing technical assistance to national governments;
  • practical programmes with local partners to enact change; and
  • supporting and capacity building of local civil society.

Target groups

  • International and regional bodies
  • National governments, parliamentarians, policy-makers
  • Prison administrations
  • Practitioners and professionals working in the criminal justice system (judges, magistrates, lawyers, prison officials, probation officers, social workers etc.)
  • Local NGOs and civil society

Geographic region of focus

  • Eastern Europe (Belarus, the Russian Federation, Ukraine)
  • South Caucasus ( Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia)
  • Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan)
  • Middle East and North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen)
  • East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda)
  • South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan)