UNODC’s Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA) covers Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka and has been working closely with Governments of South Asia to counter drugs, crime and terrorism in all its manifestations. Over the years, the Governments of South Asian countries have been active partners in the planning and implementation of UNODC ROSA’s Regional Programme for South Asia 2018-2021(1) and local projects. UNODC has been working with countries across Asia to strengthen prison systems and improve the management of prisoners as well as prison conditions, in line with the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the ‘Mandela Rules’).
The Covid-19 pandemic serves as an alarm bell for the prison systems to strengthen their preparedness and resilience to crises and emergencies in the longer term. UNODC is currently implementing a regional project with an aim to strengthen these factors in South and Southeast Asian countries (Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Maldives, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Sri Lanka) by providing guidance on strategies, building capacities, and improving existing infrastructure. In South Asia, this project is being implemented in Bangladesh and Maldives.
In the Maldives, the project will support Maldives Correctional Service (MCS) and the National Drug Agency (NDA) to strengthen preparedness and resilience of prisons against the current and future public health emergencies, through the promotion of non-custodial measures to alleviate prison overcrowding and the refurbishment of Temporary Drug Remand Centre to address prison overcrowding. This project seeks to realize that the Prison systems are prepared with adequate strategies against public health emergencies, including COVID-19.
The current project has been developed for the Maldives on the basis of ROSA’s vast experience in the area of prison reform particularly in low-income, developing countries, taking account of the key requirements of ownership, sustainability and replicability. With a field presence in the Maldives, UNODC has become a trusted partner for Governments on matters related to prison management, underpinned by a strong track record of delivering technical support.
(1) The Regional Programme defines UNODC’s strategic work frame and vision for delivering technical assistance in mandate areas, in close consultation with Governments of South Asia
The COVID-19 pandemic poses important challenges to prison systems. People deprived of liberty are likely to be more vulnerable to an outbreak than the general population because of the confined conditions in which they live and the proximity. In Maldives, the Government has taken measures to avoid mass infections by the coronavirus inside prisons, but critical incidents have occurred (e.g. riots or prison breaks). In an effort to alleviate overcrowding in response to the pandemic Maldives Government released prisoners at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. At the same time, detentions linked to violations of curfews, quarantines, or other restrictions have added to the prison population, thus further compounding the situation with overcrowding.
UNODC ROSA’s Comprehensive Assessment of Prisons in Maldives in 2020 showed an estimated 60% of the prison population in the Maldives are non-violent drug offenders. Drug use disorders are frequently accompanied by somatic conditions such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and/or C and tuberculosis, lung or cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer and injuries and traumas among others. Moreover, people with drug use disorders, especially those who inject drugs, may have a compromised immune system. Finally, stigma and discrimination linked to drug use and drug use disorders often result in limited access to basic resources such as housing, employment, health care and social support. For all these reasons, it may be more difficult for peoplewho use drugs and with drug use disorders to protect themselves and they may be at higher risk of developing the most severe forms of COVID-19.
Therefore, following previous initiatives towards addressing the problem of drugs in the South Asian region, UNODC ROSA will support capacity-building efforts targeting Maldives Correctional Service (MCS) and the National Drug Agency (NDA) to address the problem of drugs, through support to establish, at the request of the Government of Maldives, measures to reduce prison population (including non-custodial measures, alternatives to incarceration, pardons and amnesty), based on the international standards and in line with the national guidelines. This project will support governments’ national response mechanisms for persons with substance use disorders through diversion of drug offences to treatment and rehabilitation centres, and the refurbishment of drug offenders’ remand facilities.
This is in line with the Government’s Strategic Action Plan (SAP) 2018-2023 which prioritises implementation of national responses with key priorities in; strengthening preventive mechanisms of drug use and onset of drug use, expanding treatment capacity and services to increase treatment effectiveness, and promoting law enforcement and cross-sector institutional coordination to respond to the key challenges of the problem of drugs in the country.
For optimum interventions, it is highly recommended to ensure collaboration between justice and public health authorities in pursuing alternate measures to conviction or punishment for appropriate drug related offenses in line with international drug control conventions and as described in the Treatment and Care for People with Drug Use Disorders in Contact with the Criminal Justice Systems: Alternatives to Conviction or Punishment (UNODC/WHO, 2018).
C. Purpose of the assignment
As part of the project activities in Maldives, UNODC would like to commission a consultant to conduct an assessment of the Diversion Options to Treatment as an Alternative to Conviction or Punishment within the national legal framework of Maldives and in-line with international legal frameworks. The assessment report will support the government to strengthen its national response mechanism for non-custodial measures and alternatives to incarceration for drug use disorders.
The consultant is expected to assess the existing national mechanism within the criminal justice system for drug offenders, the available custodial and non-custodial treatment options for drug use disorders in Maldives and its current application within the criminal justice system and its effectiveness using high quality analysis, with the objective of supporting the Government to develop an effective national criminal justice strategy on the application of Diversion Options to Treatment as an Alternative to Conviction or Punishment within the national criminal justice framework in line with international legal frameworks and standards, with specific attention to special groups and categories.