Irish Penal Reform Trust

Solitary Confinement

Since the commencement of the IPS Census of Restricted Regime Prisoners in July 2013, the number of prisoners on 22/23 hour restricted regime has decreased dramatically. However, IPRT is concerned about the length of time that individual prisoners are held in conditions which amount to solitary confinement. 

Considering the decrease in the number of people on restricted regimes in recent years, we believe that it is an achievable goal for solitary confinement to be abolished in Ireland.

IPRT acknowledges the difficult challenge for any prison service in balancing prisoner safety (respecting the right to life) on the one hand, while at the same time providing prisoners with a reasonable and humane regime (respecting rights such as the right to private and family life). However, when drawing this balance, it is IPRT’s position that 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 an exceptional 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.

In 2016, IPRT secured funding from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to pursue an evidence-based research and awareness campaign towards the abolition of the use of solitary confinement in Ireland. 'Behind the Door': Solitary Confinement in the Irish Penal System was published in February 2018.

For the latest IPS Census of Restricted Regime Prisoners, click here.

Findings on ‘cocooning’ in prisons must be acted on now to protect mental health and dignity of men and women in prison – IPRT

29th July 2020

MEDIA ADVISORY: A briefing detailing the experiences of people cocooning in Irish prisons published today (29.07.2020) by the Office of the Inspector of Prisons demonstrates the need for enhanced prison oversight and the longer-term ineffectiveness of COVID-19 responses that rely on prolonged confinement in prisons.

CoE: Revised European Prison Rules

1st July 2020

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CoE) has adopted a Recommendation which updates the 2006 European Prison Rules. Among other amendments, the revised rules establish that states should set in their national legislation the maximum period for which solitary confinement may be imposed.

Human Rights Law Centre (Australia): Stopping Solitary Confinement

31st March 2020

The Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) in Australia has published 'Stopping Solitary Confinement', a submission to the Royal Commission into Violence, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. The HRLC writes specifically about the use of solitary confinement during COVID-19.

ECtHR: Detention conditions and treatment of prisoners

5th July 2019

The European Court of Human Rights has published a factsheet on detention conditions and treatment of prisoners outlines findings of inhuman and/or degrading treatment of prisoners.

Scotland: Mental Health and Wellbeing of Young People in Custody

21st May 2019

The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR) has published a review identifying ways to improve the health and wellbeing of young people in custody.

Penal Reform International launch Global Prison Trends 2019

21st May 2019

Global Prison Trends 2019 is the fifth edition in PRI’s annual flagship Global Prison Trends series which identifies topical developments and challenges in criminal justice, and prison policy and practice.

Census of Restricted Regime Prisoners April 2019

10th May 2019

The Irish Prison Service Statistics Office has published the Census of Restricted Regimes for April 2019.

Census of Restricted Regime Prisoners July 2018

10th August 2018

The Irish Prison Service Statistics Office has published its Census of Restricted Regimes for July 2018.

Report on Penal Reform and Sentencing

10th May 2018

Many of the issues raised by IPRT during our hearing before the Committee are included in the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality report on Penal Reform and Sentencing.

Round Up: Abolishing Solitary Confinement in Ireland

3rd February 2018

This event took place on Friday 2 February 2018 from 11am in the Hilton Kilmainham.

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.

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