Thematic paper
< image © Valentin Lombardi.

Incarceration is the response that States often impose on unwanted behaviours. In many countries, criminal law and prison are used to target those who have been excluded, who do not comply with social norms, who speak out against injustice. This feeds a vicious downward spiral. Like a cyclone, it dismantles and devastates everything around it: the prisoners’ lives, their families’ and the wider community.

What are the human and social costs of this recourse to imprisonment? Civil society organisations are calling for courageous policies that challenge this practice. They engage their efforts, day after day, to try and bring about change, sometimes at the risk of their own safety. They play an immeasurable role in protecting the rights and preserving the dignity of those incarcerated, and in suggesting a different vision of society. Step by step, new approaches are being developed and elements of reform are being implemented.

The Caught in the spiral series explores the experiences of various civil society organisations, formerly incarcerated people, researchers and policy makers challenging the criminalisation of poverty, status or activism.

— This series benefits from a financial assistance of Open Society Foundations and the French Development Agency. It is produced as part of the Campaign to decriminalise poverty and status.

Caught in the spiral