Solitary confinement report shows alarming breach of duty of care: State liable for compensation

6th Sep 2019

The state has breached its duty of care and could be liable for millions of dollars in compensation, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) in response to the alarming findings disclosed in the recent Victorian Ombudsman’s report into the use of solitary confinement in youth detention facilities.

“Solitary confinement as a punishment for young people in detention should be abolished,” said Mr Greg Barns, barrister and national criminal justice spokesperson, ALA.  “The excessive use of solitary confinement found by the Ombudsman is unlawful and the young people who have suffered this punishment should be compensated.”

ALA State President, Mr Jeremy King, added that the excessive use of solitary confinement identified in the report contravenes Victoria’s human rights legislation.  

“There is medical research showing the harmful psychological effects of prolonged confinement in a small enclosed space, and the impact on young people is especially concerning,” said Mr King. “We know that solitary confinement can cause or exacerbate an array of mental health conditions like self-harm, suicidal thoughts, hallucinations and paranoia.

“The ALA has frequently argued that solitary confinement is a ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment and breaches Australia’s international human rights obligations. 

“This is unfortunately another disturbing chapter in the state government’s appalling record of locking up children.”

The use of solitary confinement as a punishment may also breach the United Nations regulations on the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (1955) and the Convention against Torture.

Tags: Human rights Compensation Youth Justice