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The Role of Penal Reform in Security Sector Reform

31 December, 2009



Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations


1. Definitions and Concepts
1.1 Penal reform
1.2 Security sector reform
1.3 SSR as a means to promote human rights
1.4 Understandings of penal reform within SSR policy and approaches
1.5 Why is penal reform important from the perspective of the entiresecurity sector?
1.6 What are the security governance dimensions of penal reform?
1.7 Why approach penal reform from a security sector governanceperspective?
1.8 Why approach penal reform from an SSR perspective?
1.9 Concerns in situating penal reform activities as part ofSSR programming

2. Challenges of Penal Reform
2.1 Common challenges to the good functioning of the penal system
2.2 Common challenges to prison management
2.3 Challenges to effective external support to penal reform
2.4 Challenges to supporting penal reform in post-conflict contexts

3. Opportunities for Better Coordination and Lesson Sharing BetweenPenal Reform and SSR
3.1 Recognising penal reform within a comprehensive and integratedapproach to SSR
3.2 Applying good practice from penal reform to SSR
3.3 Applying good practice from SSR to penal reform
3.4 Making SSR within post-conflict peacebuilding more ‘penal sensitive’
3.5 Making penal reform within post-conflict peacebuilding more ‘SSRsensitive’

4. Conclusions and Ways Forward
4.1 Current international approaches to penal reform and SSR
4.2 What more do we need to know?


Penal reform activities have been carried on in Europe and the United States sinceat least the late eighteenth century. Security sector reform (SSR), a much newerconcept, is a governance-driven approach that looks to strengthen the roles ofboth state and non-state actors to deliver security to individuals and communities.As such, attention to the penal system is important in any comprehensive SSRprocess. However, much SSR programming overlooks penal elements, and lessonslearnt through long experience in penal reform have not been applied to otherSSR activities. There is limited discourse between the penal reform community ofpractice and the wider SSR community. This paper seeks to initiate a dialogue concerning the relationship between penal reform and wider security sector reform and governance. It is based on desk research and a number of interviews with penal reform practitioners.