Symposium participants visit Lo Wu Correctional Institution in Hong Kong, February 27, 2014.

In partnership with the Centre for Comparative and Public Law at the Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong; Renmin University Law School Center for Criminal Procedure and Reform; and Penal Reform International, Dui Hua hosted an international symposium on women in prison and the Bangkok Rules in February 2014.

The objectives of the symposium were to:

  • Increase transparency of the conditions in women’s correctional facilities worldwide;
  • Explore relevant issues in a comparative, international framework;
  • Promote the Bangkok Rules among institutional actors and decision-makers; and
  • Propose recommendations at the institutional and governmental level to improve conditions in women’s correctional facilities.

The symposium brought together 25 expert presenters from nine countries for three days of discussions on the issues facing women in conflict with the law. China represented the largest contingent, and international bodies such as the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner and the International Committee of the Red Cross were also in attendance.

While some research exists on the causes of women’s crime in China, Dui Hua has found only a few studies on the conditions and gender-specific policies at Chinese women’s institutions. As Executive Director John Kamm told The New York Times, there are some indications that women in prison fare better in China than in the United States, but many aspects of prison life remain unknown. With the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, a team at Renmin University of China Law School—led by Professor Cheng Lei, deputy director of the school’s Center for Criminal Procedure and Reform—carried out research in two Chinese prisons and three Chinese detention centers. Professor Cheng presented his team’s findings at the symposium.

Other topics presented at the symposium included violence against women, the children of incarcerated mothers, non-custodial alternatives, healthcare, international monitoring bodies, female correctional officers, juvenile offenders, and the situation of women in detention in Argentina, China (including Hong Kong), Norway, Thailand, and the United States. Click here to read the papers presented at the symposium.

The symposium ended with a visit to Lo Wu Correctional Institution, the largest and newest women’s prison in Hong Kong. Women represent nearly 20% of the total prison population of Hong Kong, one of the highest ratios in the world (6% in China; 9% in the United States). In early 2013, Hong Kong Correctional Services Department began taking steps towards implementing the Bangkok Rules.