Deputy head of OSCE Presence in Albania, Robert Wilton, remarks at Conference on the treatment of women in detention:
Everyone, including those in conflict with the law, has rights. It is a State responsibility to protect those rights. Deprivation of liberty should be a measure of last resort. It should only be applied where the seriousness of the offence would make any other measure clearly inadequate.
The OSCE Presence has been actively involved in protecting detainees’ rights, with a distinct focus on women. We have encouraged alternatives to custody, especially for juveniles and women offenders. When women are detained, they lose social status, their family relationships suffer, and they cannot meet their parental responsibilities.
Many convicted women were subject to physical and psychological abuse as children, some are drug addicts and others have always lacked support. Some women offenders come from extreme poverty and/or belong to the Roma or Egyptian communities and have been generally stigmatized, socially excluded and subject to discrimination. In most cases before becoming offenders they were themselves victims of abuse.
We need to address the underlying social and economic problems that lead women to commit crimes. These women are often both victims and perpetrators, at the same time. We must help women in abusive situations to seek protection and empower them socially and economically. And for women in detention, we need to focus on their rehabilitation and reintegration as they still have much to contribute to our society.
Former offenders’ ability to secure employment upon release affects the individual and the community’s social stability. If an ex-offender is unable to secure paid employment, he/she is more susceptible to reverting to criminal activity to survive. The ability to find employment, therefore, is key to their rehabilitation and reintegration, financial stability, self-confidence, and ultimately disengagement from crime.
The Presence is supporting rehabilitation and reintegration through vocational training of women offenders in cooperation with the Canadian government. The project, will contribute with setting up two computer rooms at Tirana’s Women’s Prison. The goal is to help the Prison’s efforts to offer vocational training to detainees and therefore support rehabilitation and reintegration. It will focus on increasing employment opportunities for women in detention through acquiring IT skills.
The Presence will continue to support the Prisons’ General Directorate: in amending the current legal framework; capacity building for prison staff; protecting human rights and implementing the 2016 Action Plan on reducing overcrowding in detention facilities.
The respect for detainees’ human rights is an important indicator of a country’s democracy; with your participation at this event today, we can, together, make the justice system fairer and more effective, by putting more emphasis on offender’s rehabilitation and re-integration and improve public trust in the institutions.
Thank you very much.