Overcrowding: Nobody’s fault? When some struggle to survive waiting for everyone to take responsibility

08 February 2018 Vincent Ballon

Visiting an overcrowded prison is a journey into the private life of each person deprived of his or her freedom, into the community of the detainees and of the staff working in such a place. Using the senses of sight, hearing, smell and touch, combined with empathy and time for observation, helps ICRC delegates to explore vulnerabilities, discover how detainees and staff cope, and grasp the intricate complexity of such a prison system. Beyond what is left of human dignity in these places of detention, when coping mechanisms become survival mechanisms, the suffering shows that overcrowding is wrong. It follows that if overcrowding is "nobody's fault", it is the responsibility of every individual and every institution of the criminal justice system to create solutions.

About the author

Vincent Ballon

Vincent Ballon has worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for over ten years, predominantly in positions visiting persons deprived of their liberty. He is presently Head of the Unit for Deprivation of Liberty of the ICRC Protection Division, and the ICRC Central Tracing Agency. He has worked as a Protection Delegate in various contexts, including Afghanistan, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Yemen, Burundi and the Philippines. He has a background in law.