Prison abolitionist organisation People Against Prisons Aotearoa (PAPA) is launching its campaign against solitary confinement this Saturday in Auckland. The group’s aim is to have all forms of solitary confinement in prisons banned.
“In our work with prisoners, our advocates have seen first-hand the destructive nature of solitary confinement. This disturbing practice must be ended immediately,” says PAPA spokesperson Emilie Rākete.
The group defines solitary confinement as the forced isolation of prisoners from meaningful human contact for twenty to twenty four hours a day. According to PAPA’s analysis of data released under the Official Information Act, a New Zealand prisoner is put in solitary confinement approximately every 43 minutes.
“It’s degrading and dehumanising. Being around other people is a basic human need,” says Rākete. “People in solitary confinement suffer and lose their sense of self.”
In a 2017 report on solitary confinement in New Zealand prisons, human rights observer Sharon Shalev found that prolonged use of solitary confinement in New Zealand prisons amounts to cruel and inhumane treatment.
“In many cases, the conditions are so bleak that they amount to torture,” says Rākete. “Prisoners are not guaranteed natural light, fresh air, regular showers, or use of the toilet. Often, they are made to sleep on concrete slabs with a thin mattress on top.”
The campaign launch event will feature legal scholar Moana Jackson, peace activist Valerie Morse, PAPA researcher Ti Lamusse, and letters from prisoners who have survived solitary confinement. The event begins at 6pm, Saturday 14th of October, at Ellen Melville Hall in Auckland.