What are the Nelson Mandela rules?

On 5 November, 2015 the revised Standard Minimum Rules for prisoners were finally agreed to be called ‘the Nelson Mandela Rules’. These rules have been negotiated by the United Nations over the past few years. This blog post will explain what the Nelson Mandela Rules are. The Nelson Mandela rules form part of a complex international legislative framework. The standards relating to incarcerated populations are reported to the Economic and Social Council through the commission on crime prevention and criminal justice. Currently the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC, 2014) monitor and provide guidance to nation-states concerning the implementation of international standards relating to incarcerated men and women. The most powerful mandate is with the Human Rights Council which has a range of special rapporteurs and working groups that have been established to monitor and investigate specific human rights issues (Lines, 2008). The international regulatory framework includes specific regulations relevant for global incarcerated populations such as the Standard Minimum Rules (SMR) which were first ratified in 1955. The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules (SMR) have been revised and will be ratified by the United Nations Commission next year. During the process of developing the Nelson Mandela Rules, it was claimed that the intention was for the SMR to be revised so they are gender-sensitive, take into account the current human rights framework and recognize the Bangkok rules (Economic and Social Council, 2013). While the Nelson Mandela Rules have taken into account women in prison, they have not made specific requirements due to the existence of the Bangkok Rules 2010. Without a specific international non-governmental organisation the reliance on naming and shaming in order for nations to comply and implement these rules could mean that little progress will be made for improving the conditions of women in prison or providing alternatives to imprisonment.


Originally published at www.r4womeninprison.com.