The criminalization of poverty and status: its implications for prison systems and penal reform in Africa, the Caribbean, South Asia and the Pacific


This two-year project, commencing mid-November 2021, will provide research data and advocacy support for current and future campaigns to decriminalize poverty, status and identity in countries across Africa, the Caribbean, South Asia and the Pacific.

With research partners across these regions we will examine the use and availability of imprisonment for a range of conduct under colonial-era laws and other outmoded or non-specific provisions such as those relating to vagrancy and other petty offences. Such laws and their enforcement disproportionately impact poorer or marginalized individuals and groups in many countries. The project will highlight the harms resulting from the use or availability of imprisonment in connection with these laws.

The long-term aim is to produce a body of research data that will strengthen support for: the abolition of petty offences and other penal laws encompassed in this work; the removal of custody as an available sanction in such cases (or pre-trial); and a policy shift towards equal rights protection for all, irrespective of status or identity.


Open Society Foundations