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A question of restraint - Care and management for prisoners considered to be at risk of suicide and self-harm

Peter Boshier
Issue date:

My findings may be summarised as follows:

  • Of the 18 prisons across the country, 14 have a designated ARU. At-Risk cells at best can be described as sparsely furnished rooms, which are constantly monitored by a live camera-feed, including the unscreened toilet. Staff of either sex, in the course of their work, can observe At-Risk prisoners in various states of undress. Prisoners’ clothing is removed on admission to ARUs and replaced with anti-rip gowns to minimise opportunities for self-harm.

  • Routines within ARUs are similar to the regimes within management/separates units. At-Risk prisoners are placed in isolation with limited interaction and therapeutic activities.

  • ARU paperwork and directed segregation (for medical oversight) is not always fully completed and lacks specificity and personalisation.

  • Training for staff working in ARUs is basic.

  • Staff interactions with At-Risk prisoners are limited.

  • There were incidences of At-Risk prisoners being restrained on tie-down beds by their legs, arms and chest over prolonged periods.

  • There were incidences of At-Risk prisoners being restrained in waist restraints with their hands cuffed behind their backs.

  • We discovered incidences of tie-down beds and possibly waist restraints being used for behaviour modification purposes at some sites.

  • Prisons were not following their own procedures in respect of the application of mechanical restraints.

  • The interface between Corrections and Regional Forensic Psychiatric Services appears not to be working as effectively as it could. Gaps in service provision were evident.

I consider that the use of the tie-down bed and/or waist restraints in the circumstances of Prisoners A, B, C, D and E amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment for the purpose of Article 16 of the Convention against Torture. Furthermore, I believe the ability of prison staff to access footage of prisoners undertaking their ablutions constitutes degrading treatment or punishment under Article 16 of the Convention.

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