The old isolation wing at Oslo Prison, Norway.
Photo credit: Knut-Eric Ronningen ©
With the exception of the death penalty, solitary confinement is the most extreme sanction which may be legally imposed on prisoners.
The adverse effects of solitary confinement on the health and wellbeing of those subjected to it, particularly for prolonged periods, can be very serious.
Yet, the last two decades have seen an increase in the use of strict, and often prolonged, solitary confinement in prisons and other places of detention across the world. This is a worrying development with potentially harmful consequences, not only for the individual concerned - but also for the wider communities to which they will eventually return.
This website is dedicated to examining the practice of solitary confinement in its various forms, in different jurisdictions. It was designed to accompany the Sourcebook on Solitary Confinement and expand on issues discussed therein.
The site is managed and maintained by Sharon Shalev
The Sourcebook on solitary confinement provides a comprehensive single point of reference on solitary confinement, its documented health effects, and professional, ethical and human rights guidelines and codes of practice relating to its use. The Sourcebook was supported by the Nuffield Foundation
A report on the use of solitary confinement in segregation units and Close Supervision Centres in England and Wales, by Dr Sharon Shalev of the Centre for Criminology at Oxford University and Dr Kimmett Edgar of the Prison Reform Trust with funding from the Barrow Cadbury Trust.
A series of reports examining the use of seclusion and restraint across different detention contexts in New Zealand. The first report, Thinking Outside the Box? was commissioned by the New Zealand Human Rights Commission with funding from the UN OPCAT, and conducted by an independent expert, Dr Sharon Shalev. The review included visits to seventeen different places of detention including prisons, health and disability units, a youth justice residence, a children's care and protection residence, and police custody suites. Two follow-up reports were published- one in 2020 and one in 2021.
A comprehensive study of the use of solitary confinement, or ‘iso’ (short for ‘isolation’), in the Netherlands, focusing on ‘regular’ isolation units where people are isolated as punishment or as a protective measure. The study was commissioned by the Dutch Custodial Institutions Agency (DJI). It involved visits to seven different prisons and interviews with 87 individuals.
The "Nelson Mandela Rules" are a revision of the 1955 United Nations Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners (SMR), adopted by the UN on 22 May 2015.