Public report on the unlawful solitary confinement of three prisoners by prison authorities - March 13, 2000 - Emalus Campus
On October 11, 1998, three prisoners exerted pressure on a police officer to release them from prison. Consequently, the prisoners were punished by being given solitary confinement for 17 days between October 11 and October 28, 1998, the date of a disciplinary hearing. At the disciplinary hearing before the Officer in Charge, the three prisoners were found guilty of a prison offence. On November 2, 1998, the Superintendent of Prisons approved the punishment that had been imposed.
Although the prisoners committed an offence, the procedure employed to punish the prisoners was defective in several ways. First, the punishment was given before a disciplinary hearing had taken place. This breached the administrative procedure required whereby a hearing and finding must precede a punishment. Secondly, the punishment was meted out by the Officer in Charge and not the Superintendent as required by the Prison (Administration) Act. Thirdly, the solitary confinement imposed exceeded the 4 days in one week or 14 days in total permitted by the Prison (Administration) Act. The Ombudsman found that the punishment infringed the Constitutional rights of the prisoners.
In the exchange of communications between the Ombudsman and prison authorities, the Officer in Charge disclosed that prisoners generally were not properly segregated and were provided with beds and food which may have been sub standard.
· That the Superintendent of Prisons provide training to all prison staff on procedure relating to the imposition of punishment for prison offences.
· That the Superintendent of Prisons develop a disciplinary procedure, including penalties for prison staff who impose excessive punishments on prisoners or violate prisoners’ rights.
· That the Superintendent negotiate with the three prisoners with a view to agreeing on fair compensation for the infringement of their constitutional rights.
Written by Edward R. Hill
UNDP Governance and Accountability Project
© Ombudsman of Vanuatu
Published here by University of the South Pacific, School of Law Web Site - www.vanuatu.usp.ac.fj