‘Solitary confinement’; ‘segregation’; ‘isolation’; ‘seclusion’; ‘de-escalation’; ‘separation’; ‘high security’; ‘supermax’; ‘special management’; ‘low stimulus;’ ‘secure care’; and ‘time out’ are the subject of a recent report requested by the Human Rights Commission and funded by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) through the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture Special Fund.
‘Solitary confinement’ is defined as the social and physical isolation of individuals in a place of confinement for twenty-two to twenty-four hours a day, and Corrections’ data showed 16,370 recorded instances of segregation in New Zealand in the year to November 2016, which is four times that of England and Wales. Both Māori and women were overrepresented.
Report recommendations include reducing segregation and all forms of restraints; reserving it for the most extreme of cases for short periods; ensuring minimum standards for provision of decent living conditions are met; and, that data on the use of seclusion etc. is recorded and analysed for trends and characteristics such as age, gender and ethnic origin.
Dr Shalev noted the work being undertaken by Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui(Te Pou) to reduce the use of seclusion and restraint. The Office of the Ombudsman, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, the Independent Police Conduct Authority and the Inspector of Service Penal Establishments, otherwise known as National Preventive Mechanisms or NPMswill now consider each of Sharon Shalev’s recommendations and use this report to inform future work with detaining agencies, including the development of appropriate monitoring and follow up activities. The NPMs will also keep working with agencies to reduce the prevalence of seclusion and restraint and to improve the how it is carried out in circumstances where it is deemed necessary.