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McInnes welcomes inspection of solitary confinement policy

June 25, 2014 2:50 PM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Alison McInnes has Alison McInnesAlison McInnestoday applauded news that the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland is to undertake an inspection into the use of solitary confinement in Scotland's prisons.

In his first Annual Report published today, HM Chief Inspector QM David Strang announced that he will undertake a thematic inspection into the use of segregation and separation over the next year.

The announcement comes after Ms McInnes published figures which showed that the number of prisoners being held in solitary confinement for extended periods of time has risen by 41 per cent in the last year.

The orders, made under section 95 of the Prison and Young Offenders Institutions (Scotland) Rules 2011, allow for the initial isolation of a prisoner for 72 hours but can be extended for a month. There is no limit on the number of extensions that can be applied for and no independent review system.

Commenting on the announcement, Ms McInnes said:

"I applaud the HM Chief Inspector's decision to conduct a review into the use of solitary confinement by Scotland's prisons. I have been alarmed by the increasing use of extended solitary confinement orders over the past year. In December last year I revealed one woman in Cornton Vale was kept in solitary confinement on six occasions over a 17 month period, totaling 387 days in this environment.

"It would be wrong for these orders to be used to cope with overall pressures on the prison service. Long-term solitary confinement does little to support rehabilitation efforts. It could compound the serious mental health problems which some prisoners face.

"Whilst this review will identify how isolation orders are being used inside our prisons it will not deal with the problems identified with the orders themselves. Currently these orders can be renewed indefinitely with no external review. The Justice Secretary must amend prison rules so an independent panel can consider whether back-to-back orders are appropriate and ensure that basic human rights are being protected.

"The Chief Inspector has stepped up to the plate. It's time Kenny MacAskill did the same."