Child locked in solitary prison confinement for 23 hours a day

Child Locked in Solitary Confinement for 23 Hours a Day Prompts Judicial Review

A teenager has been kept in solitary confinement at a London prison for 23 hours a day, it has been revealed. The High Court will now urgently hear a judicial review on the case, after it was brought forward by the Howard League.

The boy, known only as AB, routinely spent almost all day locked inside his cell at Feltham prison. During the short periods outside his room, he wasn’t allowed any contact with other children. The Howard League, a charity which campaigns for reform of the justice system, says the confinement and lack of education are unlawful.

This is not an isolated case: in the last two years, Howard League lawyers have supported six teenage boys who have been held in solitary confinement for periods ranging from weeks to over six months.

What does this have to do with human rights?

We all have human rights, even prisoners.  However, there are some rights which are restricted for prisoners – the right to liberty for a start. They may also be made to do labour as part of their punishment, can be stopped and searched at any time, have restrictions on what they can own, and have their correspondence monitored.

There are rights which cannot be taken away though. For example, we cannot take away a prisoner’s right to life or a fair trial, and it is against the law to make them a slave or to torture them. Prisoners should also receive 15 hours of education a week, though this can be limited for security reasons.

As well as this, there are specific guidelines surrounding children in detention. The Nelson Mandela rules are a key part of this, setting minimum standards on how children should be treated. In short, they say that detention for children should only be used as a last resort, and solitary confinement should never be used in relation to children under any circumstances.

The Children’s Commissioner also states that when when isolation is used as a behaviour management measure, it must be for the minimum period necessary. Children should spend at least 8 hours per day out of their cell or room, in contact with their peers or with staff, family and professional visitors. The Howard League argue this hasn’t happened in this case.

So, where do we go from here?

The case will soon by heard by judges at the High Court, who will rule whether the boy’s rights were breached in this case. However, the story is likely to start a much wider discussion about solitary confinement of children.

A 2015 report by the Children’s Commissioner found that one third of children in prison will spend time in isolation – meaning this case could have broader implications for how our prisons treat young people.

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About the Author

Jem Collins

Strategic Impact Director
Jem is the Strategic Impact Director for RightsInfo, working on increasing our reach across the UK and measuring our impact. Previously she was the News and Social Media Editor. She is also passionate about helping young people into the media and runs Journo Resources, a start-up which helps young people into the media, as well as serving as a trustee of the Student Publication Association. She is also one of the co-founders of The Second Source, a group to help end harassment in the media. Email Jem View all posts by Jem Collins.
Child Locked in Solitary Confinement for 23 Hours a Day Prompts Judicial Review
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