Effective grievance and inspection procedures are fundamental safeguards against illtreatment in prisons. Prisoners should have avenues of complaint open to them both within and
outside the context of the prison system, including the possibility to have confidential access to an
appropriate authority. The CPT attaches particular importance to regular visits to each prison
establishment by an independent body (e.g. a Board of visitors or supervisory judge) possessing
powers to hear (and if necessary take action upon) complaints from prisoners and to inspect the
establishment's premises. Such bodies can inter alia play an important role in bridging differences
that arise between prison management and a given prisoner or prisoners in general.
It is also in the interests of both prisoners and prison staff that clear disciplinary procedures
be both formally established and applied in practice; any grey zones in this area involve the risk of
seeing unofficial (and uncontrolled) systems developing. Disciplinary procedures should provide
prisoners with a right to be heard on the subject of the offences it is alleged they have committed,
and to appeal to a higher authority against any sanctions imposed.
Other procedures often exist, alongside the formal disciplinary procedure, under which a
prisoner may be involuntarily separated from other inmates for discipline-related/security reasons
(e.g. in the interests of “good order” within an establishment). These procedures should also be
accompanied by effective safeguards. The prisoner should be informed of the reasons for the
measure taken against him, unless security requirements dictate otherwise1, be given an opportunity
to present his views on the matter, and be able to contest the measure before an appropriate
The CPT pays particular attention to prisoners held, for whatever reason (for disciplinary
purposes; as a result of their “dangerousness” or their “troublesome” behaviour; in the interests of a
criminal investigation; at their own request), under conditions akin to solitary confinement.
The principle of proportionality requires that a balance be struck between the requirements
of the case and the application of a solitary confinement-type regime, which is a step that can have
very harmful consequences for the person concerned. Solitary confinement can, in certain
circumstances, amount to inhuman and degrading treatment; in any event, all forms of solitary
confinement should be as short as possible.
In the event of such a regime being imposed or applied on request, an essential safeguard is
that whenever the prisoner concerned, or a prison officer on the prisoner's behalf, requests a medical
doctor, such a doctor should be called without delay with a view to carrying out a medical
examination of the prisoner. The results of this examination, including an account of the prisoner's
physical and mental condition as well as, if need be, the foreseeable consequences of continued
isolation, should be set out in a written statement to be forwarded to the competent authorities.
The transfer of troublesome prisoners is another practice of interest to the CPT. Certain
prisoners are extremely difficult to handle, and the transfer of such a prisoner to another
establishment can sometimes prove necessary. However, the continuous moving of a prisoner from
one establishment to another can have very harmful effects on his psychological and physical wellbeing. Moreover, a prisoner in such a position will have difficulty in maintaining appropriate
contacts with his family and lawyer. The overall effect on the prisoner of successive transfers could
under certain circumstances amount to inhuman and degrading treatment.
This requirement has subsequently been reformulated as follows: the prisoner should be informed in writing of
the reasons for the measure taken against him (it being understood that the reasons given might not include details
which security requirements justify withholding from the prisoner).