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Lessons from Reformers: Transparency and Accountability in Prisons

These case studies are featured in OGP’s Justice Policy Series, Part II: Open Justice paper. Read it here.

Justice Policy Series, Part II: Open Justice Explore how applying the principles of open government can create fairer and more effective justice systems.


Italy publishes individual prison sheets

As a result of Italy’s 2016 OGP commitment to improve transparency in its penitentiary system, the Ministry of Justice has begun disclosing the transparency sheets of its 190 penitentiary institutions on a new central portal. Each transparency sheet webpage includes information on the institution’s structure, capacity, physical characteristics, and policies around work, visitation, and other aspects of prison life. Although progress is slow, this kind of central register of prison information could be an important model for other countries to follow.

Independent prison visitors examine prisons in Western Australia

Independent prison visitors complement the role of inspectors by providing prisoners with information on accessing prisoner services, speaking on their behalf, recording complaints, and documenting their visits.[109] They are appointed by the minister for Corrective Services in Western Australia and serve renewable two-year terms. By law, these visitors can examine any prison at any time and are required to carry out inspections at least every three months. Among the stated goals of the program are to ensure the representation of local interests in prison operations, as well as to maintain a diverse cadre of inspectors in terms of age, gender, experience, and ethnic or socio-economic background.

Open prison data and civil society oversight in Argentina

As part of its 2017-2019 Action Plan, Argentina created a public database of audit recommendations and compliance information from the Federal Prison Service.[110] Government collaboration with academia and civil society to design the database ensured that the final product significantly increased CSOs’ ability to monitor the penitentiary system. The government’s 2019-2021 Action Plan will further strengthen public oversight of the prison system by establishing a National Penitentiary Diagnosis.[111] This annual study will be collaboratively designed by the government, CSOs, and academia and evaluate the penitentiary system from a human rights perspective.



  • Brazil: Work with civil society to develop an open format national database using data from inspections carried out by several actors in the prison system (2016-2018).
  • Denmark: Establish whistleblower frameworks for employees of the Danish Ministry of Justice, including prison service personnel (2019-2021).
  • Mexico: Centralize public security information, including data on the entry and exit of prisoners in both federal and military prisons (2019-2021).
  • Paraguay: Establish a new public prison information system (2018-2020).
  • Scotland, United Kingdom: Involve CSOs in delivering health and social services to prison patients and develop more transparent reporting on patient outcomes (2018-2020).


Featured Photo Credit: agnomark via AdobeStock

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