Thursday, April 27, 2017

We must end the use of seclusion

We've been hearing a lot about seculision and abuse by solitary confinement recently, thanks to the reporting on the case of Ashley Peacock and investigations by the Ombudsman. And now the United Nations has told us loudly and clearly to stop abusing people this way:

A scathing report has slammed New Zealand for its overuse of solitary confinement - found to be four times higher than in English prisons and in breach of international standards.

Children, disabled people and the mentally unwell were also isolated at high rates, and in conditions considered "stark" and "impoverished", according to Dr Sharon Shalev, an international human rights expert.


Her report highlights a raft of issues, the most serious being the continued use of seclusion on mentally unwell prisoners; and the solitary confinement of children - both against international standards.


Corrections' data showed there were 16,370 recorded instances of segregation in New Zealand in the year to Nov 2016, four times that of England and Wales. Maori and women were both overrepresented.

Its deeply disturbing reading, and it makes it clear that we are failing to abide by basic international human rights standards in our prisons, mental instutitons, and youth justice system. We're also failing to provide basic medical and mental health carein our prisons, which exacerbates the problem. And we desperately need to clean our act up, and stop locking people away in isolation like this.

Sadly, from Corrections' response, we're not going to. Just as they did when they were caught torturing prisoners, they're claiming that seclusion and restraint saves lives. Except that when they were torturing prisoners, that was a lie - they do it not out of any real concern for the welfare of those in their care, but because it is cheaper to do so. Which tells us that if we want to solve this problem, we need a good purge of Corrections officials, so that basic human rights decisions are not affected by economic considerations and National's austerity.