The UK Prison System: Compliance with International Human Rights Law
11 March 2019
This Policy Brief reflects on the state of the UK prison system from an international human rights law perspective.
Report drafted by Adrianna Borkowska, Julia Kreienkamp, Bee Lau, Alexandra Ming, Aderinsola Otubanjo and Henry Wilson, UCL.
In April 2019, the UK will be examined by the UN Committee against Torture on its record in implementing the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). The state of the UK prison system is likely to be a major focus of the review.
Driven largely by a combination of overcrowding and underfunding, prisons in the UK are facing significant challenges. Staff shortages, poor living conditions and practices such as the continued use of solitary confinement have resulted in an overall deterioration of safety in prisons and increased levels of suicide and self-harm. Yet, accountability is lacking not just for individual cases of abuse but also in respect of more systemic failings.
With a view to contributing to the UK’s upcoming review under the CAT, the UK Network on the Prohibition of Torture convened a workshop on 21 November 2018 to reflect on the state of the UK prison system from an international human rights law perspective. Jointly hosted by Royal Holloway University of London, the Centre for Human Rights Law at SOAS University of London, the UCL Institute of the Americas and the UCL Global Governance Institute, the workshop brought together leading practitioners, policy-makers and academics to share experiences, perspectives and insights and consider key priorities for future research, policy and practice.
The full workshop report is available here: The UK Prison System: Compliance with International Human Rights Law [PDF]