Prison Watchdog Says Solitary Confinement in Canada Is “Out of Control”

A recent report showing an upsurge in the occurrence of solitary confinement in Canadian prisons, and its disproportionate use for Black and Aboriginal individuals and those with mental health issues, shocked even Canada’s outgoing prison ombudsman. “I have looked at segregation in significant detail over the last several years and I was still surprised to […]

Can International Laws and Standards Help Curb Solitary Confinement in the United States?

The United States prides itself in being a leader in the international community. But when it comes to some human rights issues—including the use of solitary confinement—the U.S. lags far behind most other nations. Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, many new declarations, treaties, and standards have been produced […]

British Supreme Court Rules Against Unlawful Use of Prolonged Solitary Confinement

Britain’s highest court has ruled that putting individuals in solitary confinement for an extended period of time without external review is unlawful. The appellants Kamel Bourgass and Tanvir Hussain were both wrongfully held in solitary for more than six months because the process lacked oversight, the UK Supreme Court ruled. “The decisions to continue the […]

UN’s “Mandela Rules” to Set New International Standards for Treatment of Prisoners, Including Limits on Solitary Confinement

The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMRs) are being given several long-awaited revisions this year. Among them is a provision that solitary confinement “shall be used only in exceptional cases as a last resort for as short a time as possible and subject to independent review.” The rules also prohibit […]

Voices from Solitary: Fly in the Ointment

Peter Collins has been in prison for more than 30 years and is one of Canada’s longest-serving prisoners. He is currently incarcerated at Bath Institution near Kingston, Ontario. Collins is an award-winning human rights activist, writer, artist and peer health educator.  In 2008, he was awarded the Canadian Award for Action on HIV/AIDS and Human […]

Irish Court Blocks Suspect’s Extradition to U.S., Citing Risk of Solitary Confinement  

An Irish court has blocked a U.S. extradition request because of the conditions of solitary confinement the accused could face if sent to the United States. Ireland’s High Court determined there was a real risk that Irish citizen Ali Charaf Damache would be incarcerated at the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum (ADX) in Florence, Colorado, and […]

London Calling

For the next two weeks, Solitary Watch will be on hiatus while my colleague Aviva Stahl and I take a reporting trip to the United Kingdom. While there, we will be speaking with officials and inspectors of Her Majesty’s Prison Service, as well as prison reform advocates, scholars, and currently and formerly incarcerated individuals. We  also […]

UN Torture Investigator Barred from Visiting American Supermax Prisons

More than two years ago, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez, asked the U.S. State Department for permission to visit individuals in solitary confinement in supermax prisons and isolation units. He is still waiting for a response. Recently, our colleague Sarah Shourd interviewed Méndez for an article in the Daily Beast that describes his […]

In Canada, a Death in Prison Sparks Debate, Lawsuits Over Solitary Confinement

Ashley Smith was just 19 when she died in her solitary confinement cell at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ontario, in October 2007. As she had many times before, Smith tied a ligature around her neck and tightened it. For twenty long minutes, a crowd of prison guards stood watch from outside […]

UN Committee on Torture Questions U.S. Record on Solitary Confinement

Last Wednesday and Thursday, United States government officials met with representatives at the United Nations to discuss the country’s compliance with the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). Every country that is a signatory to the CAT is required to submit a “Periodic Report” to the […]