After international expert Dr Sharon Shalev’s visit last year, her resulting report into seclusion and restraint practices in New Zealand has been released with many shocked by her findings.
In late April the Commission released Dr. Shalev’s report, Thinking outside the box – A review of seclusion and restraint practices in New Zealand, which outlined a number of serious concerns about New Zealand’s seclusion and restraint practices
The report, which was completed with funding from the UN, was commissioned by the Human Rights Commission to provide an independent perspective on seclusion and restraint practices in several different detention contexts and to identify areas of best practice, as well as areas that require improvement.
The report indicated that seclusion and restraint may not always be used as a last resort option, as required by international human rights law, and several of the rooms and units being used do not provide basic fixtures such as a call-bell to alert staff, a toilet, or fresh running water.
It also highlighted the over-representation of Maori in seclusion and restraint events, a small but persistent number of ‘chronic’ cases where solitary confinement and restraint were used for a prolonged time, and systemic gaps, particularly in relation to the care of those who are mentally unwell.
To address these issues, Dr. Shalev’s report also included a number of recommendations including:
• Stopping the use of equipment such as restraint chairs and restraint beds.
• Making sure that rooms and cells are of a reasonable size, are clean, safe, well-ventilated, well-lit and temperature controlled and that basic requirements around access to fresh air and exercise, food and drinking water are always be met.
• Decommissioning facilities that are not fit for purpose.
• Ensuring all cells/rooms are equipped with a means for attracting staff attention
• Thorough records and data are kept, indicating start and end times of seclusion and restraint periods and any efforts at less restrictive methods, and regularly analysed for trends in ages, ethnicities, and gender.
Chief Commissioner David Rutherford says that the matters the report raised are confronting and the focus now needs to be on improving the situation.
“Dr. Shalev’s report provides an important catalyst for further discussion about these issues. Reports like this one, and regular monitoring, are vital to ensuring that seclusion and restraint practices in New Zealand align with international best practice and that examples of good practice are shared and implemented successfully,” Mr Rutherford says.
To read the report, go here.