TIJ joined the ancillary meeting on “Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration of Women Prisoners and Offenders” and launched related research papers


“Women prisoners’ pathway to incarceration involves interconnected factors such as the experience of being the victim of physical and mental violence, poverty, and familial responsibilities. We need to provide care which responds to gender and the experience of violence to support successful reintegration,”


highlighted Dr. Samantha Jeffries, Griffith University, during her presentation in the ancillary meeting on “Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration of Women Prisoners and Offenders” on 8 March 2021 at The 14th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Kyoto, Japan.    



The objectives of the ancillary meeting on “Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration of Women Prisoners and Offenders” are to understand the rehabilitation and social reintegration needs of women prisoners, to provide a platform for experts to discuss their experiences working in this area, and to highlight existing good practices and challenges related to rehabilitating women prisons around the world under the framework of the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders or the Bangkok Rules.


Dr. Samantha Jeffries, Griffith University, started off by explaining the rehabilitation and social reintegration needs of women prisoners. She referred to a research report “Women's Pathways Into, Through and Out of Prison”, co-conducted by Griffith University and TIJ, to understand the causes of women imprisonment. The research focused on root causes that lead them to imprisonment and problems they face during the imprisonment and post-release.


In conclusion, Dr. Samantha indicated that women prisoners in Thailand have a history of being victims of violence, having dysfunctional family lives, mental health problems or substance addiction/abuse, having been under men influence and control, having low or no education, facing economic marginalization, and bearing familial caretaking responsibilities. 


During incarceration, the rehabilitation for women prisoners should be supported by gender responsive programs based on the prisoners’ experiences. Prisons should have a supportive environment. The applicable rehabilitative programs should cover aspects of substance misuse, mental health and trauma recovery, life and occupational skill development, and social reintegration preparation.


Once released, women prisoners should have a stable accommodation and circle of people in their life such as family, friends, or an intimate partner. Women with child care responsibilities are noticeably successful in community reintegration, especially those who need to earn to care for their children. However, the major challenge is that the inability to find a job, the return to the same environment prior to the commitment of crime, or stigmatization can lead to recidivism.


According to the research, many women prisoners do not perceive reintegration as an achievement. Many women have goals, motivation to change, desire for a good quality of life and to rebuild a relationship with their families, increased self-acceptance, are able to recover from illnesses or stop using drugs, have permanent accommodation, are capable of providing support to others, and etc.


Dr. Samantha also noted that successful rehabilitation and reintegration of women prisoners require multi-stakeholder collaboration from all sectors and assistance be provided in a holistic approach.


Mr. Theodore Leggett, UNODC, together with TIJ, conducted the “Research on the Causes of Recidivism in Thailand” and shared the following research findings: the reasons for returning to the prison are mostly the same in each country, but different across countries. For instance, in Albania, poverty is the major reason. In Czech Republic, the reason is debt. Whereas in Thailand, it is narcotics policies.


He further made an observation that despite Thailand is relatively safe in the dimension of crimes, the number of prisoners is at a high level, where the number of drug-related prisoners has a tendency to increase. In Thailand, 80% of the prisoners are incarcerated for drug-related offences, 78% are yaba-related prisoners, and 10% for crystal methamphetamine or ice-related prisoners. In addition, 76% of the prisoners were convicted for possession with intent to sell.


The main causes of recidivism are: the return to the same neighborhood or environment; family and social stigma; unemployment or rejections from work; higher income from selling drugs for the unskilled; being misunderstood as a seller; and mental disorders. However, most Thai prisoners return to prison because of the return to the same environment over other reasons. The second most common reason being unemployment and mental health problems. The research also found that most prisoners admitted that they have committed an offence and should be punished, without blaming the system or the society.


On one hand, the prisoners need reintegration support, which is pivotal, as Dr. Samantha has mentioned. Prisoners need to be assessed prior and during imprisonment and prior to the release in order to adapt their behaviors for successful reintegration and to prevent them from returning to the same environment.


On the other hand, the Thai government should reassess drug-related measures and laws to align them with the current empirical evidence, especially on the level or the amount of drugs an offender possesses, prior to deciding whether the offender is a seller or a user. Since the narcotics law, enacted 18 years ago, is unable to respond to the current situation where the price of yaba or methamphetamine is substantially cheaper, at 10 baht, resulting in a misunderstanding where drug users, who buy drugs for personal use in bulk to avoid frequent contact with the seller, are mistaken for being sellers and thus are sentenced to prison in the end. 


In this ancillary meeting, other speakers have shared case studies from various countries including Mr. Julio Cesar Cepeda, Retired Senior Officer of the Argentine Federal Penitentiary Service, Argentina, Mr. Takeshi Morikawa, Representative from the United Nations Asia and Far East Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (UNAFEI), and Ms. Tsira Chanturia, Regional Director for South, Penal Reform International (PRI). The meeting was moderated by Ms. Chontit Chuenurah, Director of the Office of the Bangkok Rules and Treatment of Offenders, TIJ.


A full research report is available at:

Women's Pathways Into, Through and Out of Prison


Research on the Causes of Recidivism in Thailand


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