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U.N. Torture Chief: Ban Solitary Confinement for Teens, Mentally Disabled

HeadlineOct 19, 2011

The top United Nations official on torture is calling for an end to almost all forms of solitary confinement. Juan Méndez, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture, said solitary confinement should only be allowed in exceptional cases, and emphasized an absolute ban in the case of juveniles and people with mental disabilities.

Juan Méndez: “I am of the view that juveniles, given their physical and mental immaturity, should never be subjected to solitary confinement. Equally, in order not to exacerbate a previously existing mental condition, individuals with mental disabilities should be provided with proper medical or psychiatric care, and under no circumstances should they ever be subjected to solitary confinement. My recommendations are, first, to see if we can have a complete ban on prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement. And I more or less arbitrarily define that as anything beyond 15 days of solitary confinement, meaning someone being confined to a cell for at least 22 hours a day.”

In his remarks, Méndez also commented on U.S. soldier and alleged whistleblower Bradley Manning, who’s being held in a Kansas prison following his arrest for allegedly leaking government material to WikiLeaks. Méndez says although Manning is no longer being held in solitary confinement, he is still monitoring the case.

Juan Méndez: “I want to stress that, on the one hand, he is no longer in solitary confinement, although he spent something like eight months in solitary confinement, but when he was moved to Fort Leavenworth, his regime changed, and he’s not in solitary confinement now. I’m not saying anything about whether his present regime violates other possible standards, but at least he’s—on a daily basis, he does communicate and socialize with other inmates in his same category.”

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