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Prisoner attempts suicide after solitary confinement

06:00am 08/12/2017
People Against Prisons Aotearoa

Prisoner attempts suicide after solitary confinement

Spring Hill Correctional Facility plans to transfer a suicidal prisoner from Hamilton to Wellington, says prisoner advocacy group People Against Prisons Aotearoa. The move would place him more than 7 hours away from his family.

When the prisoner was informed he would be transferred, he expressed suicidal thoughts and was placed in an At-Risk Unit for mentally ill prisoners.

The use of At-Risk Units in New Zealand prisons was criticised in 2016 by Sharon Shalev, a United Nations human rights observer. Shalev noted that conditions in these units meet the international definition of solitary confinement and that they amount to torture.

“Family members told PAPA advocates that he beat his head against a steel pole as he was being taken to a transfer vehicle last Wednesday,” says PAPA spokeswoman Emilie Rākete. “He was then put in solitary confinement for a further four days.”

According to Rākete, Corrections still plans to move him to Wellington, as well as bring disciplinary charges against him for hindering his transfer.

“It is unacceptable to lock a vulnerable person alone in a cell for more than 22 hours per day. This can only be considered torture,” says Rākete. “Solitary confinement will not help him get better. Shipping him away from his family will not help him get better. Corrections’ actions will kill this man if his transfer is not prevented.”

PAPA advocates have contacted Spring Hill prison director Chris Lightbown twice to ask that the transfer and disciplinary charges be dropped, but have yet to receive a reply.

Under the rules used by Corrections to administer New Zealand prisons, the inter-prison transfer of At-Risk prisoners must not happen if it would put the prisoner at further risk.

“This transfer must not happen and the disciplinary charges against him must be dropped immediately. The prisoner has told us that if reporting suicidal thoughts only gets him thrown in solitary confinement, he will not report these feelings in future. The At-Risk Units are so unbearable that prisoners will suffer in silence to avoid them.”

“The dehumanising and humiliating practice of solitary confinement has only made this man more of a danger to himself,” says Rākete. “Solitary confinement has done nothing to improve his mental health and may have contributed to his suicidality.”

“People Against Prisons Aotearoa demands that Corrections end the practice of putting mentally ill prisoners in solitary confinement.”


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