Solitary confinement a mental health risk: rights body

10th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Solitary confinement should be a rare punishment in prisons and limited to 14 days, the Council of Europe said Thursday, raising concern about practices in France and Ireland.

"Isolation can have extremely damaging effects on mental health," Letif Huseynov, the president of the council's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) said at a press conference in Strasbourg.

The committee said in a report that 14 days should be a maximum punishment for solitary confinement but practices varied from country to country.

It runs from three days in Scotland, to "30 in France and 56 in Ireland, which is far too much", said the committee's deputy secretary Fabrice Kellens.

Suicide rates are higher among inmates in solitary confinement than in the wider prison population, the CPT report said.

The committee said that it was alarmed that in some countries including Italy and Russia courts have the right to sentence defendants to parts of their prison terms in solitary.

"Prison is punishment in itself and any aggravation of that as part of the sanction is unacceptable," the CPT said.

The committee has for the past 21 years conducted visits to prisons, detention centres, psychiatric hospitals and police stations of the Council of Europe's 47 member states as part of the body's mission to protect human rights and prevent torture and abuse.

Results of these visits are published only with the consent of the countries concerned. Russia has consistently opposed publication, with just one of 18 reports on the country being released, said Huseynov.

© 2011 AFP

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