Tonight, a coalition of human rights and civil rights groups and faith communities will host a briefing and panel discussion on solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and jails, featuring some of the leading experts and advocates on this issue as well as the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, who tracks torture worldwide. The following material comes from the flyer about the forum.
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), The General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Human Rights Watch, Rabbis for Human Rights- North America, Physicians for Human Rights, Metro New York Religious Campaign Against Torture, The Mennonite Central Committee UN Office, Unitarian Universalist Association United Nations Office, Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, Amnesty International USA
Invite you to attend a briefing and panel discussion on
The Dangerous Over-Use of Solitary Confinement: Pervasive Human Rights Violations in Prisons, Jails & Other Places of Detention
Tuesday, October 18, 2011, 6:00 PM- 7:30 PM
Church Center for the United Nations, 777 United Nations Plaza, New York, New York
44th Street Entrance – Second Floor Conference Room
Each day tens of thousands of prisoners and detainees in the U.S. and abroad are held in solitary confinement. Usually in isolation for at least 23 hours a day and denied all meaningful human contact, these prisoners and detainees are frequently held for months, years, and sometimes decades in conditions that the Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council has found can amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and even torture. This briefing will examine the detrimental impacts of solitary confinement, the science that supports its finding as a human rights violation, and the disproportionate impact of its use on mentally ill persons and youth. Panelists will also explore the legal framework for protecting prisoners and detainees from solitary confinement and strategies advocates and others are currently using to end its abusive use.
Juan E. Mendez, Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
Panel discussion by
* Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director, National Religious Campaign Against Torture
* David Fathi, Director, National Prison Project, American Civil Liberties Union
* Jamie Fellner, Senior Advisor, U.S. Program, Human Rights Watch
* Dr. Homer Venters, MD MS, Center for Health and Human Rights, NYU Medical School
* Prof. Craig Haney, Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Cruz
In August, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, issued an interim report on the use of solitary confinement internationally. The report summary follows, but the full report is well worth reading.
Interim report of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
In the present report, submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 65/205, the Special Rapporteur addresses issues of special concern and recent developments in the context of his mandate. The Special Rapporteur draws the attention of the General Assembly to his assessment that solitary confinement is practised in a majority of States. He finds that where the physical conditions and the prison regime of solitary confinement cause severe mental and physical pain or suffering, when used as a punishment, during pre-trial detention, indefinitely, prolonged, on juveniles or persons with mental disabilities, it can amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and even torture. In addition, the use of solitary confinement increases the risk that acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment will go undetected and unchallenged.
The report highlights a number of general principles to help to guide States to re-evaluate and minimize its use and, in certain cases, abolish the practice of solitary confinement. The practice should be used only in very exceptional circumstances, as a last resort, for as short a time as possible. He further emphasizes the need for minimum procedural safeguards, internal and external, to ensure that all persons deprived of their liberty are treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.