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.

Roundup: Coverage of IPRT lecture on Solitary Confinement

6th August 2013

Media coverage of issues and concerns around 23-hour lock up and restrictive regimes, brought into focus by the 2013 IPRT Annual Lecture.

Overreliance of Irish prisons on prolonged solitary confinement must be addressed with urgency – IPRT

23rd July 2013

MEDIA ADVISORY: The Irish prison system is over-reliant on 22-hour and 23-hour lock up as a method for securing prisoner safety, and the practice of holding any prisoner in isolation for more than 15 days must cease. Where any category of prisoner is held on lock up for 22 or more hours, this must only ever be a temporary measure, and robust safeguards must be in place in relation to the use of such regimes.

New Sourcebook on Solitary Confinement released

28th May 2013

A new sourcebook on Solitary Confinement aims to encourage policy makers and prison managers to limit the use of solitary confinement to a measure of last resort

UN Committee against Torture: Concluding Observations (2011)

7th June 2011

The United Nations Committee against Torture has published its Concluding Observations following Ireland's first periodic review under UNCAT.

Press Release: "International Celebrities Condemn Torture through Solitary Confinement of Mentally Ill American Prisoners"

1st February 2006

Press release from Mental Health Alternatives to Solitary Confinement

Out of Mind, Out of Sight: Solitary Confinement of Mentally Ill Prisoners

30th April 2001

A report examining the placement of mentally ill prisoners in solitary confinement in Irish prisons, by Dr. Valerie Bresnihan on behalf of IPRT.

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



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