Changing cultures in closed environments, what works? Jem Stevens, Delegate, APT Melbourne

association for the prevention of torture
Changing cultures in closed
environments, what works?
Jem Stevens, Delegate, APT
February 2012
About the APT
The Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT)
• International NGO based in Geneva
• Working for over 30 years on prevention of
torture (i.e. measures and mechanisms to
reduce the risk of torture occuring)
• Focus on transparency and monitoring of places
of detention, including the OPCAT
• Working around the world, in cooperation with
government and non-government partners
• For more information
Why look at cultures?
“I was told when I was coming to [the hospital] that I
would be leaving my rights at the front door – and it
isn’t like that now.”
Patient at high security forensic psychiatric hospital in Scotland (from
report of Scottish Human Rights Commission)
Outline of presentation
1. What we mean by “culture” in closed
2. What works to change these cultures
3. Drivers for change and the role of
outside actors
Understanding culture in
closed environments
Different kinds of closed environments,
difficult to generalise. But some
centrality of people and relationship
between them
imbalance of power = vulnerability
cultures can develop unchecked
hierarchical and/or bureaucratic
What are “cultures” in closed
Organisational culture: the shared
assumptions and values that
guide behaviour within an
“A strong organisational culture
literally controls organisational
(Shafritz and Ott)
How are cultures in closed
environments formed?
Long term process, complex influence of internal and
external factors:
Trickle down (from paradigm, set by leadership and
formal rules and informal rules created through tacit
social approval)
Trickle in (attitudes and values of staff and persons
deprived of liberty, and the relationship between them)
Societal attitudes (the influence of broader culture
within society)
Cultural norms that can
impact negatively on human
rights in closed places
 “Us and them”
 Loss of the individual
 People deprived of their liberty don’t deserve
 Stereotyping and racism
 Security is most important
Human rights in closed
Human rights recognise the dignity and worth of each
individual. In closed environments, this means:
• Putting people at the centre
• Fostering a constructive environment through mutual
• Ensuring safeguards against abuse
• Ensuring both detainee and staff rights
• People have information and participate in decisions that
affect them
• Individual decisions on actions that interfere with rights –
avoiding blanket policies
Human rights organisational
Human rights organisational change:
“The process of moving an organisation to be
more inclusive, and to fully respect and
accommodate the dignity, worth and rights of
all people”
(Ontario Human Rights Commission)
Changing cultures in closed
environments, what works?
No magic solution, but some key factors that
can contribute*:
• Committed leadership
• Changing the paradigm
• Modifying the organisation
• Recruiting and training staff
• Supervision and reinforcement
• Addressing resistance
Ongoing process – monitoring
*from the APT’s experience, interviews with experts and existing research and studies – see for
example Cummings & Worley (2005), Coyle (2002) in relation to prisons, and Ontario
Human Rights Commission (2011) in relation to policing.
Modifying the organisation
Example: changing symbols
The Royal Ulster
Constabulary crest
Police Service of
Northern Ireland Crest
Benefits of a human rights
culture change
Example from The State Hospital Scotland
– highlighted by the Scottish Human
Rights Comission:
increased work-related satisfaction for
increased satisfaction of patients in
relation to treatment
staff reporting a reduction in stress and
reduced staff’s “fear” of human rights
increased their understanding of how to
make choices and the meaning and
benefit of their own human rights.
The role of outside actors and
some drivers for change
1. Transparency in places of
deprivation of liberty
2. Independent monitoring
3. Public inquiries
4. Legislation
5. Civil society
6. Cultural change in wider
Thank you!