AFRICANGLOBE – The United States says it will review cases in which Caribbean and other detainees are being held in solitary confinement in detention centers and jails around the country.
Homeland Security Department Secretary Janet Napolitano has asked US federal immigration officials to provide her with more information about immigrants being held in solitary confinement at federal facilities.
“I think solitary confinement should be the exception, not the rule,” she said stating that detainees are held in solitary for “a variety of reasons,” such as being disruptive and for their own protection.
Napolitano’s disclosure came as the United Nations expert on torture called on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to investigate the practice of solitary confinement and its harmful effects in the Americas, including the Caribbean.
Juan E. Méndez, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on torture, also called for stronger regulation on solitary confinement.
“I am concerned about the general lack of official information and statistics on the use of solitary confinement,” Méndez told the Commission last month in its first-ever briefing on solitary confinement in the Americas.
“The use of solitary confinement can only be accepted under exceptional circumstances, and should only be applied as a last resort measure in which its length must be as short as possible,” added the Special Rapporteur.
Méndez warned that there are insufficient safeguard mechanisms in the region for preventing, detecting, and responding to the use of solitary confinement, such as making sure that the prisoners held in solitary confinement retain access to legal counsel and medical assistance.
Méndez addressed the Commission, which is part of the Organization of American States, in his capacity as an unpaid independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on thematic issues.
In a 2011 global report to the UN General Assembly, Méndez called solitary confinement a “harsh measure which is contrary to rehabilitation, the aim of the penitentiary system.”
New US federal data indicates that, on any given day, about 300 Caribbean and other immigrants are held in isolation in the US, many of them for 23 hours a day.