Current trends and practices in the use of imprisonment

This article charts the rapid rise in the use of imprisonment in recent decades before considering some of the most pressing issues of concern in the use of imprisonment today. First among these is prison overcrowding, which continues to blight the record of many countries in their treatment of prisoners. To illustrate the potentially dire consequences of overcrowding – a problem common to many other countries and regions – an account is given of a recent visit to a prison in El Salvador. The article then provides an overview of the relevant regional and international standards on the treatment of prisoners, referring also to the role of judicial bodies in ensuring implementation.

About the authors

Andrew Coyle

Andrew Coyle is Emeritus Professor of Prison Studies at King’s College, University of London, and was founding Director of the International Centre for Prison Studies, which merged with the Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR) at Birkbeck, University of London, in 2014.

Helen Fair

Helen Fair is a Research Fellow at the ICPR working on the World Prison Research Programme and the World Prison Brief website.

Catherine Heard

Catherine Heard is Director of the World Prison Research Programme at the ICPR.