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UN Special Rapporteur on Torture calls for ban on solitary confinement

last updated Oct 19, 2011

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez has urged governments to stop the practice of solitary confinement since it contradicts rehabilitation, the aim of the penitentiary system. According to studies cited by Mendez isolation may cause harmful physical and mental effects within a few days.

Mendez indicated that solitary confinement could be used for prisoner protection but must not be longer than 15 days. "Considering the severe mental pain or suffering solitary confinement may cause, it can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment when used as a punishment, during pre-trial detention, indefinitely or for a prolonged period, for persons with mental disabilities or juveniles," he said.

For juveniles and people with mental disabilities, an absolute ban should be imposed. The United States are infamous for the application of solitary confinement with approximately 20-25,000 prisoners being held in isolation. Mendez also criticised China where a woman has spent two out of an eight-year-sentence in solitary confinement.

OHCHR News: UN Special Rapporteur on torture calls for the prohibition of solitary confinement

BBC News: UN urges ban on solitary confinement

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