From: Attorney-General’s Department, Australian Government
8 February 2012

Solitary Confinement and Isolation of Prisoners: International Human Rights Day 2011

I refer to your letter addressed to the Prime Minister, The Hon Julia Gillard MP, of 9 December 2011, regarding solitary confinement and the isolation of prisoners. Your letter was referred to the Attorney-General, who has asked me to reply on her behalf.

The Australian Government acknowledges its obligations under international human rights law to treat persons in detention humanely, and to refrain from torture or treatment which would be considered cruel, inhuman or degrading. The Australian Government has welcomed the Concluding Observations of the Committee against Torture in 2008, including in relation to the segregation of prisoners, referred to in the statement on prisoner isolation attached to your letter.

The segregation of prisoners in Australia is generally used as a last resort and is governed by laws or guidelines. The Australian Government notes that legislating in relation to the provision of correctional services in Australia is a matter for the Australian States and Territories. The ownership and operation or prisons or remand centres in Australia is the responsibility of the Australian States and Territories.

The Australian States and Territories deliver corrective services in accordance with the Standard Guidelines for Corrections in Australia, which comply with the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, the Council of Europe Minimum Rules and Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Guidelines provide a basic framework for the management of correctional services in Australia. The Guidelines contain provisions relating to the treatment of segregated prisoners, with restrictions in relation to the use of segregation as punishment and in relation to the segregation of prisoners for management or administrative reasons.

The Guidelines can be found through the Australian Institute of Criminology website, at the following address: /standards/aust-stand_2004.ashx

Youres sincerely

Anne Sheehan
Acting Assistant Secretary
International Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Branch

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