Child health bodies urge ban on solitary confinement in custody

The British Medical Association, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Royal College of Psychiatrists have issued a joint position statement calling for the prohibition of solitary confinement in child prisons and secure children’s homes. The health bodies say:

There is an unequivocal body of evidence on the profound impact solitary confinement can have on health and wellbeing.

Various studies indicate an increased risk of suicide or self-harm amongst those placed in solitary confinement.

As children are still in the crucial stages of developing socially, psychologically, and neurologically, there are serious risks of solitary confinement causing long-term psychiatric and developmental harm.

There is also clear evidence that it is counter-productive. Rather than improving behaviour, solitary confinement fails to address the underlying causes, and creates problems with reintegration.

For these reasons, there is a growing international consensus – from groups including the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, and the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Torture – that solitary confinement should never be used on children and young people.

In light of its potential to cause harm, and in the absence of compelling evidence for its use, we call for an end to the use of solitary confinement on children and young people detained in the youth justice system.”

Carolyne Willow, Article 39’s Director, said:

“There is absolutely no justification for this cruel and normalised practice of physically and psychologically isolating children. Solitary confinement causes terrible suffering and police, health and social care agencies would be knocking down doors to help children escape such treatment in any other setting.”

Read the full joint statement here.

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