To: New Zealand Parliament

End Solitary Confinement in New Zealand Prisons

End Solitary Confinement in New Zealand Prisons

People Against Prisons Aotearoa calls on New Zealand Parliament to end all forms of solitary confinement in New Zealand prisons.

Why is this important?

At least 300 people are being held in solitary confinement in a New Zealand prison right now [1]. Solitary confinement is where you are held in a cell and denied meaningful human interaction for 22-24 hours per day [2]. New Zealand doesn’t have a specific unit called a ‘solitary confinement unit’, but solitary confinement is still widely present in the prisons [3]. Although it never calls it solitary, the Department of Corrections puts people in solitary confinement about 12,000 times per year for reasons that include punishment, ‘protection’ and because they are suicidal [4].

Solitary confinement can have serious long-lasting and detrimental effects on prisoners' mental and physical health. Physiological effects of solitary can include insomnia, migraines, heart and intestinal problems and the worsening of existing health conditions. It can also have severe psychological effects, including anxiety, depression, anger and psychotic rage, paranoia, psychosis, hallucinations, and increased suicidality [5]. Almost every year a person in a New Zealand prison takes their own life in a solitary confinement cell [6].

The United Nations has declared indefinite and prolonged use of solitary confinement to be inhumane and degrading [7]. In some cases the pain and suffering inflicted through solitary confinement can amount to torture [8]. Despite these findings, there is an epidemic of solitary confinement in New Zealand. According to information released to People Against Prisons Aotearoa, a person is sent to solitary confinement around every 43 minutes [9]. The international human rights observer Sharon Shalev recently found that the use of solitary in New Zealand prisons is four times higher than in England and Wales [10].

Further, the use of solitary confinement worsens the systemic racism of the prison system. Māori and Pacific peoples are more likely to be placed in solitary, making up 62% of people put in solitary [11]. For people who are put in solitary for reason of punishment, Māori and Pacific peoples are 80% of that population [12]. This means the pain and suffering experienced in solitary is also more likely to be felt by Māori and Pacific peoples, making it a racist policy.

Solitary confinement must be brought to an end. It does not keep anyone safe. People who experience it are more likely to harm themselves and, when they get out of solitary, more likely to use violence against others [13]. Solitary can cause severe pain and suffering that stays with the person long after they’ve been released [14]. There is no good reason to use solitary confinement. Its use must be ended immediately.

We call upon Parliament to ban all forms of solitary confinement in New Zealand. This includes, but is not limited to, solitary confinement for the good order of the prison, for the ‘protection’ of a prisoner, for reason of population management, for reason of punishment, or because a prisoner is ‘at risk’.

1 - Ti Lamusse, ‘It’s time to end solitary confinement,’ (Speech, End Solitary Confinement Campaign Launch, Ellen Melville Hall, New Zealand, October 14, 2017).
2 - Sharon Shalev, ‘A Sourcebook on Solitary Confinement’ (London: Mannheim Centre for Criminology, 2008).
3 - As found in Sharon Shalev, ‘Thinking outside the Box? A review of seclusion and restraint practices in New Zealand’ (Wellington: Human Rights Commission, 2017).
4 - Lamusse, ‘It’s time to end solitary confinement.’
5 - Sharon Shalev, ‘A Sourcebook on Solitary Confinement’ (London: Mannheim Centre for Criminology, 2008).
6 - Ti Lamusse, ‘Grieving Prison Death’ (Master of Arts Thesis, University of Auckland, 2017).
7 - Juan Mendez, ‘Interim Report of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment’ (Geneva: United Nations, 2011).
8 - Ibid.
9 - Lamusse, ‘It’s time to end solitary confinement’.
10 - Shalev, ‘Thinking outside the Box?’.
11 - Ibid.
12 - Ibid.
13 - Shalev, ‘A Sourcebook on Solitary Confinement’.
14 - Ibid.

Reasons for signing

  • To give people a second chance
  • my son is about to go into this and I am beside myself!!
  • important social issue


2017-11-29 13:17:59 +1300

1,000 signatures reached

2017-10-20 01:13:19 +1300

500 signatures reached

2017-10-15 12:15:10 +1300

100 signatures reached

2017-10-14 19:10:40 +1300

50 signatures reached

2017-10-14 12:07:56 +1300

25 signatures reached

2017-10-14 09:37:39 +1300

10 signatures reached