The Convention is primarily intended to facilitate the social rehabilitation of prisoners by giving foreigners convicted of a criminal offence the possibility of serving their sentences in their own countries. It is also rooted in humanitarian considerations, since difficulties in communication by reason of language barriers and the absence of contact with relatives may have detrimental effects on a person imprisoned in a foreign country.
Transfer may be requested by either the State in which the sentence was imposed (sentencing State) or the State of which the sentenced person is a national (administering State). It is subject to the consent of those two States as well as that of the sentenced person.
The Convention also lays down the procedure for enforcement of the sentence following the transfer. Whatever the procedure chosen by the administering State, a custodial sentence may not be converted into a fine, and any period of detention already served by the sentenced person must be taken into account by the administering State. The sentence in the administering State must not be longer or harsher than that imposed in the sentencing State.