University of Malta’s Faculty of Social Wellbeing has issued a new paper calling for the total abolishment of solitary confinement in prison.
Described as an oppressive practice in “breach of human rights”, the proposition paper called for alternative methods to be discussed in Parliament.
“The practice of solitary confinement has been shown, through multiple empirical research publications, to be detrimental to prisoners’ wellbeing, resulting in negative effects on their physical, psychological and social health,” Dean Andrew Azzopardi said while making reference to literature on the subject.
Maltese law allows judges to sentence prisoners to periods of solitary confinement for a maximum ten-day period every two months. Azzopardi has campaigned against its use for some time now, warning that the practice is detrimental to prisoner’s physical and mental health.
The position paper called for the amendment of legal provisions stipulated in Chapter 9 (Criminal Code) of Maltese Law which would remove solitary confinement as part of a court sentence.
Moreover, in cases where a prisoner suffers from mental health, and thus is deemed to require solitary confinement, the paper argues that provisions from within the Mental Health Act should be used instead, including the use of restrictive care.
“The use of solitary confinement as a ‘last resort’ indicates that all other methods of resolving a situation have failed. It is therefore pertinent that alternative courses of action are re-evaluated with a view towards the abolishment of solitary confinement,” it said.
Other propositions include sufficient and adequate training of staff working in prison facilities to ensure that prisoners are treated in a manner that is humane, thus eliminating the need for solitary confinement as a coercive method in the first place.
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