UN: Solitary Confinement Amounts to Torture

Isolation longer than 15 days should be banned, says lead investigator

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 19, 2011 11:35 AM CDT

(Newser) – Solitary confinement doesn't just sound like torture—it literally can be torture, according to the UN's lead investigator on the topic. Juan Mendez has called for a ban on solitary confinement in excess of 15 days, and a total ban on the practice when juveniles or people with mental disabilities are concerned. Speaking to a UN General Assembly human rights committee, Mendez referenced studies that found negative physical and mental effects from spending just a few days in solitary confinement.

"Segregation, isolation, separation, cellular, lockdown, Supermax, the hole, secure housing unit ... whatever the name, solitary confinement should be banned by states as a punishment or extortion technique." Mendez pointed a finger at China for keeping a woman in isolation for two of the eight years she was sentenced to serve. As for the US, he noted it's estimated that as many as 25,000 convicts are in solitary confinement, reports the BBC.

A juvenile Iraqi detainee stands in a solitary confinement cell outside at the Camp Cropper detention center September 19, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq.
A juvenile Iraqi detainee stands in a solitary confinement cell outside at the Camp Cropper detention center September 19, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq.   (Getty Images)
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