Dignity Principles A Guide to Ensure the Humane Treatment of People in U.S. Carceral Settings

Dignity Principles Report 786x786


Contributors: Rashaad Porter, Sharon Taylor, and Elizabeth Ige

Restoring Promise is an initiative of the Vera Institute of Justice that seeks to transform prison cultures, climates, and spaces by partnering with correctional leaders to reimagine housing units for young adults and realign corrections policies and practices with a commitment to human dignity. These Dignity Principles draw inspiration from The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules), build on lessons from Restoring Promise’s work to open young adult housing units in prisons and jails, and were formed in partnership with national organizations working in and with prison systems and jurisdictions to significantly reduce harm for all who are incarcerated. This set of dynamic principles is focused on human dignity and meant to help corrections professionals, incarcerated people, and advocates, including nonprofit leaders and government officials, improve prison conditions and culture.

Key Takeaway

This set of principles serve as a guide to a field that is ever-changing. As the field changes, the principles will continue to adjust, taking into consideration the ways in which humanity and the needs within prisons also evolve.

Publication Highlights

  • The seven principles include Safety, Human Dignity in Carceral Settings, Morale and Well-Being, Fairness, Purpose, Family and Community Partnership, and Transparency.

  • Although these principles provide guidance to create more humane prison environments, Restoring Promise also encourages decarceration to reduce prison populations and eliminate racial disparities behind prisons walls.

  • Testimony and studies both demonstrate that when we treat people with dignity, we can create a sense of purpose beyond custody and control, forge community, and make prisons safer.