Parliamentary Assembly

Social rehabilitation of prisoners

Doc. 10054
27 January 2004

Motion for a recommendation
presented by Mrs Azevedo and others

This motion has not been discussed in the Assembly and commits only the members who have signed it

1.         The topic of prisons and prisoners clearly affects the governments and yet it is not given due attention.  It is regarded as a negative issue in 20th century societies and is sometimes put aside.  The public opinion is badly informed and this makes it difficult for the governments to undertake the necessary reforms.

2.         What sometimes happens in several countries is that there are no programmes or rules to support the social rehabilitation of prisoners once they have served their sentences.  In Portugal’s case, there is the so-called Institute for Social Rehabilitation (Instituto de Reinserção Social), which does not promote an effective reintegration of the offender in society, since it does not help him seek employment after leaving prison.  While in prison, the Institute for Social Rehabilitation intervenes in the execution of the prison sentence and provides support to the prisoner with a view to his/her social rehabilitation while assisting the courts of execution of sentences and the prison administration.  The Institute for Social Rehabilitation also contributes to the definition of the criminal policy, particularly in the areas of social reintegration of young people and adults and the prevention of crime. 

3.         So far the recommendations presented in the Council of Europe have focused primarily on matters regarding political prisoners, life in prisons, the transfer of prisoners between countries, the abolition of the death penalty, the social and family effects of arresting people, the conditions of prisoners in prisons, pre-trial detention and AIDS prevention in prisons.  There was only one Report on the social situation of prisoners, Doc. 4573 (15 July 1980), referring to the social reintegration of prisoners.  This report underlines the need to clarify the role of the State in seeking employment for ex-prisoners and says that ex-prisoners or prisoners on parole must be supported in their rehabilitation and that this support should be provided, for example, by Social Security agencies.  The report was essentially based on the social aspects of prisons.  It would be interesting to examine once again the problem of the penal system as a whole, using examples of other Member States.  Since this report was produced, no other text has been adopted in this area. 

4.         If social rehabilitation is accepted as the core objective of our prison systems, then the detention period should be organised so as to facilitate the prisoners’ return to normal life.  Penal policies nowadays should strive for more realistic goals, giving each individual the opportunity and the resources to find his/her place in society.

5.         The penal policy has been a primary concern of the Council of Europe.  The Committee of Ministers and the European Committee on Crime Problems have adopted several texts and published numerous studies and reports, namely Resolution (62) 2 on electoral, civil and social rights of prisoners; Resolution (75) 25 on prison labour; Resolution (76) 10 on certain alternative penal measures to imprisonment; and Resolution (73) 5 on the standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners.  It seems that the question is still open.

6.         The Assembly invites the Governments of the member states to gather information on:

  1. the laws governing the social rehabilitation of ex-prisoners in their countries;

  2. the existence of specific institutes to handle this issue;

  3. the support provided by the social security or similar bodies;

7.         The Assembly recommends to the Committee of Ministers to:

  1. draw up common rules on the social rehabilitation of ex-prisoners for all Member States of the Council of Europe;

  2. compare the current laws of the Member States and try to present uniform guidelines on this matter;

  3. promote the creation of a European institute to provide social and legal support to the prisoners, help them seek employment once they have served their sentences, as well as monitor the existing institutes within each member state.   

Signed [1]:
Azevedo, Portugal, EPP/CD
Aguiar, Portugal, EPP/CD
Ahlqvist, Sweden, SOC
Akçam, Turkey, EPP/CD
Ates, Turkey, SOC
Bartumeu Cassany, Andorra, SOC
Daly, Ireland, LDR
Gündüz S, Turkey, LDR
Huseynov R, Azerbaijan, LDR
Jurgens, Netherlands, SOC
Manzella, Italy, SOC


SOC: Socialist Group
EPP: Group of the European People’s Party
EDG: European Democratic Group
LDR : Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group
UEL: Group of the Unified European Left
NR: not registered in a group