Council of Europe: New Guidance to Prison Services on Humane Treatment of Inmates

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has adopted a Recommendation which updates the 2006 European Prison Rules. The rules, which contain the key legal standards and principles related to prison management, staff and treatment of detainees and are a global reference in this field, guide the 47 Council of Europe member states in their legislation, policies and practices.
The revision concerns the rules on the record keeping of information about inmates and the management of their files, the treatment of women prisoners, foreign nationals, as well as the use of special high security or safety measures such as the separation of prisoners from other inmates, solitary confinement, instruments of restraint, the need to ensure adequate levels in prison staff, inspection and independent monitoring.
The recommendation regulates in greater detail solitary confinement (i.e. being locked up for more than 22 hours a day without meaningful human contact). Decisions on this measure should always be used as a last resort and take into account the state of health of the prisoner. Due to the very negative effect such a measure may have on one’s physical and mental health, it should be imposed for a strictly specified period of time, which should be as short as possible.
The revised rules establish that states should set in their national legislation the maximum period for which solitary confinement may be imposed. Furthermore, inmates concerned should be visited daily by the prison director or an authorised member of the prison staff, as well as by the medical practitioner.
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