Prisons ‘often’ break isolation laws

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Norwegian prisons have admitted that they “often” hold prisoners in solitary confinement without permission from the courts.

Prisons have been required to seek court approval for such arrangements since 2002, when the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) criticized the widespread use of solitary confinement in Norway. Institutions have apparently taken advantage of an exception to the court approval rules that allows them to hold prisoners in solitary confinement under particular “buildings or staff-related circumstances.”

Ila prison, where terrorist suspect Anders Behring Breivik is being legally held in solitary confinement, informed probation authorities that they “often keep people remanded in custody isolated with court approval,” newspaper Aftenposten reports. The probation authorities have previously allowed this but will now ask for a review of the prison’s procedures.

A research fellow specializing in the issue at the University of Oslo, Thomas Horn, commented that “lack of capacity is no excuse, other than in very acute cases and for a very short time,” adding that “when prisons instead reveal that they operate a queue system where the solitary confinement continues up until there are free places, it is quite simply a systematic breach of the rules that must cease.”

The CPT is set to revisit Norway this year as part of regular, unannounced visits to member nations.

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