IPRT has today welcomed the findings of the High Court that 22-23 hour solitary confinement regime imposed on a prisoner for almost a year amounts to a “clear sustained violation” of the prisoner's right to bodily and psychological integrity.
Key findings include:
- 22 or 23 hour lockup regime amounts to solitary confinement;
- solitary confinement can cause significant psychological harm to prisoners;
- solitary confinement should be used only in exceptional circumstances and for a limited period of time;
- after 3 or 4 weeks there should be an intensive review of such cases to ensure the conditions can come to an end at the earliest possible time.
IPRT welcomes both the manner in which the court has vindicated the constitutional rights of this prisoner, and the manner in which proper account was taken in the judgement of applicable international standards and best practice as reflected, for instance, in the reports of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture. We expect the prison service to take account of this judgment in the form of a review of its practice and procedures regarding the imposition and regulation of solitary confinement.
IPRT has consistently raised our serious concerns around the use of prolonged isolation and restricted regimes as a method to provide protection to prisoners. The potential harm to prisoners’ mental health that can be caused by extended periods of isolation means that the practice of holding any category of prisoner on 22+ hour lock up must only ever be a temporary measure; that this cannot be a solution in itself to prisoner safety concerns; and that robust safeguards must be in place in relation to the use of such regimes.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission appeared as amicus curiae (or friend of the court) in the High Court case; their full statement is available here.
- IPRT Briefing on Solitary Confinement, Isolation, Protection and Special Regimes (July 2013)
- IPRT Press Release: Over-reliance of Irish prisons on prolonged solitary confinement must be addressed with urgency – IPRT (July 2013)
- IPRT Press Release: Radical action needed to address stubbornly high prison numbers and meet basic duty of providing safe custody for all prisoners – IPRT (May 2013)
- The Irish Times: Solitary for Melanie McCarthy McNamara killer a ‘violation’ (Feb 2015)
- Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission: Important decision of the High Court in case concerning prisoner’s rights (Feb 2015)
- Irish Prison Service: Census of Restricted Regime Prisoners January 2015