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UN calls for an end to solitary confinement as punishment

The UN’s lead investigator on torture has called using solitary confinement as a punishment “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” – which can amount to “torture”.

Image: Paul Faith/PA Wire/Press Association Images

THE UNITED NATION’S lead investigator on torture has called for the end of solitary confinement terms – as they can pose the risk of serious mental and physical damage to prisoners.

Juan Mendez told the UN General Assembly’s human rights committee that placing people in solitary confinement could amount to “torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment when used as a punishment, during pretrial detention, indefinitely or for a prolonged period”.

He said that people with mental disabilities and juveniles should not be subjected to the practice, and that nobody should be segregated for more than 15 days, the BBC reports.

Placing prisoners into solitary for their own safety was sometimes necessary, he said, but added that it should not be used as a disciplinary method. ”Segregation, isolation, separation, cellular, lockdown, supermax, the hole, secure housing unit … whatever the name, solitary confinement should be banned by states as a punishment or extortion technique,” Mendez said.

He cited the case of a woman in China who spent two years of an eight year sentence in solitary confinement for supplying state secrets to foreigners, reports Reuters.

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