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.

Census of Restricted Regime Prisoners July 2017

2nd September 2017

Although there has been an increase in the numbers on restricted regimes since the Census of Restricted Regime Prisoners July 2013, there has been a significant decrease, of 95%, on the number of prisoners on 22-/23-hour lock up.

Stop Solitary for Kids Compile a List of Resources on US State Legislation and Cases

24th August 2017

Stop Solitary for Kids is a website that highlights developments in particular States within the United States of America (USA) that have passed legislation that aim to limit the use of solitary confinement for children in detention. Currently 18 out of the 51 States in the U.S.A have either developed or are currently developing legislation reducing the use of solitary confinement for children.

Juvenile Law Center Launch Report: Unlocking Youth Legal Strategies to End Solitary Confinement in Juvenile Facilities

2nd August 2017

The Juvenile Law Center in their latest report (2017) highlight the issues facing children and young adults in detention who are subjected to solitary confinement. In this report the authors address issues such as the impact solitary confinement can have on the cognitive, social and emotional development of those subjected to solitary confinement during their developmental years. They also highlight the correlation between cognitive development and behaviour labelled as challenging, as well as the impact deprivation of social inclusion can have on the ability to recover from solitary confinement post-release.

The Irish Prison Service Release 'Elimination of Solitary Confinement' Policy Document

31st July 2017

In July 2017, the Irish Prison Service issued a new policy document on the elimination of solitary confinement, incorporating Rules 44 and 45 of the UN Mandela Rules.

Minister introduces Amendment to Prison Rules: “Meaningful Human Contact”

7th July 2017

On 29th June 2017, Minister for Justice and Equality, Charles Flanagan TD, introduced an amendment to Rule 27 (1) of the Prison Rules 2007 to 2017.

National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) Guidance: Isolation in detention

10th February 2017

The NPM in the UK has published a report Isolation in detention (2017) that sets out clear guidance in relation to the practice of isolation in detention and prison settings. The guidance aims to ensure that those subjected to isolation are not adversely impacted by it. The guidelines set out specific standards which should be followed to minimise the effects of isolation on various groups of people including children in custody. Research shows significant differences between the impact of isolation on adults compared to children due to the cognitive development of children and their perceptions of time which differ from those of adults.

Census of Restricted Regime Prisoners January 2017

31st January 2017

The Irish Prison Service Statistics Office has recently published its quarterly census of Restricted Regime Prisoners in the Irish prison system.

US: 'Caged In', Solitary Confinement’s devastating harm on prisoners with physical disabilities

13th January 2017

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has published a report on the particular negative effects that solitary confinement poses to prisoners with physical disabilities.

IPRT welcomes Dáil debate on prolonged solitary confinement

1st December 2016

A Private Member’s Bill introduced by Clare Daly TD, the Prisons (Solitary Confinement) (Amendment) Bill 2016 was debated in the Dáil on 1st December 2016. IPRT strongly welcomes the attention that is being paid to this serious issue.

Invitation to Tender: Solitary Confinement in Ireland

30th November 2016

IPRT has 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.

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

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