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A top U.N. official is calling for a ban on long-term solitary confinement, arguing that the mental and physical damage isolation causes to prisoners could be equated with torture.
The BBC reports that Juan Mendez, the United Nations' lead torture investigator, told the General Assembly's human rights committee this week that although short-term solitary confinement may be permissible when prisoner safety is a concern, studies show that even a few days of isolation can take a mental and physical toll on the prisoner. Mendez called for a ban on any solitary confinement that lasts more than 15 days.
"Considering the severe mental pain or suffering solitary confinement may cause, it can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment when used as a punishment, during pre-trial detention, indefinitely or for a prolonged period, for persons with mental disabilities or juveniles," said Mendez, who is also an American University law professor.
Mendez estimated anywhere between 20,000 to 25,000 prisoners were being held in solitary confinement in the United States alone.