June 20, 2016 — The Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez published an op-ed in Canada’s Globe and Mail on Monday discussing how prisons all over the world use extreme isolation of inmates, a practice defined as any regime in which prisoners remain alone from 22 to 24 hours a day, despite the absolute prohibition of physical and mental torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The Special Rapporteur stated that solitary confinement has become more widespread in recent decades, and in many countries, seems to be used for longer and longer periods of time. He explained that “psychiatric literature suggests that social isolation inflicts psychological pain and suffering on its subject and that its consequences become more severe the longer the period of solitary confinement.”
The Special Rapporteur highlighted the significance of the revised and updated version of the Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners, now called the Mandela Rules, which prohibit indefinite isolation as well as its use for prolonged periods – defined as any period exceeding 15 days. He emphasized how the Rules also forbid solitary confinement, of any duration, when used on certain categories of prisoners, including children and adolescents, persons with any mental disability, and pregnant or breast-feeding women, which he advocated for in his 2011 thematic report on Solitary Confinement. While the Special Rapporteur noted that isolation can serve some legitimate purposes, he stressed that “its use must be strictly limited in time and applied with due process safeguards, such as an independent adjudicator, a right to a hearing, and judicial control and review.”
To read the full op-ed, please click here.