COMPLAINT
PRISON PROCEDURES
VIOLENCE

What standards are important to prevent violence?

Prison violence is the use of force or power to cause any kind
of harm or injury. It can be used by staff against prisoners or
the other way around by prisoners against staff as well as
between prisoners or by prisoners against themselves.

Additional international standards require:
-Good living conditions for prisoners, especially with regard to
accommodation, purposeful activities outside their cells and reha-

To prevent violence in prison, it is important to acknowledge that

bilitation

there are both direct and indirect forms of violence. Direct violence

-An appropriate number of prison staff as well as good working

can, for example, also be caused by structural or cultural violence,

conditions and training opportunities

which are indirect and therefore less visible forms of abuse.

-Accountability and protection of victims of violence, including
systematic medical examinations, recordings and documentation,

Types of prison violence

1.

Direct violence:
is the use of physical force or
psychological abuse and threats

2.

Structural violence:
is linked to inadequate conditions
of detention, discrimination or
the denial of care
Overcrowding; Dis-

3.

an effective complaint mechanism, independent investigations,

Examples:

Culture

of

Humiliation;Sexual or gender-

criminatory rules; Not enough

against

based

purposeful activities or social

gestures or language to make

contact

others feel and appear unworthy

Threats

of

violence

us’;

Using

monitoring prison violence and its risk factors.

What should prison staff and administrations consider?
1.

How do you solve violent conflicts when they occur in your prison?

2.

Do you put in place measures to prevent conflicts before they

https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cat.aspx
-UNCAT, Arts 1, 2 & 16

Violence (or any infliction of severe pain or suffering) may amount to a
-ECHR – Art 3
https://www.echr.coe.int/documents/convention_eng.pdf
violation of the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading
-EU Charter – Art 4
https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:12012P/TXT
treatment or punishment. This may be the case for example:
of Force and Firearms
https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/useofforceandfirearms.aspx

line with the principles of legality, necessity, proportionality and precaution

https://bit.ly/3d17Uow
-UN Mandela Rules, R 82
-If force is used by prison staff against prisoners to extract a confession,
https://search.coe.int/cm/Pages/result_details.aspx?ObjectId=09000016809ee581#globalcontainer
-CoE, European Prison Rules. R
punish, intimidate, or discrimination

3.
4.

-Using conflict prevention, mediation or any other alternative dispute resolution mechanism to prevent conflicts and provide appropriate training to
staff on such techniques
-Paying particular attention to the relationship between prison staff and
the prisoners under their care

Key standards
-UN Mandela Rules, R 76
-CoE, European Prison Rules, R 51
-CoE, Rec CM/Rec(2012)12 on
foreign prisoners R 32
-CoE, Guidelines on radicalisation
& extremism,29

(e.g. human rights, the treatment of persons in a vulnerable situauthority and force, dynamic security, balancing security mea-

-UNODC, Handbook on Dynamic Security

https://www.unodc.org/documents/justice-and-prison-reform/UNODC_Handbook_on_Dynamic_Security_and_Prison_Intelligence.p

-CoE,
Manual on Dynamic Security Crew,
https://rm.coe.int/final-training-manual-on-dynamic-security-june-2018-koregirana-4-/16808ccae2

https://bit.ly/3vZSadO
-Liebling, Hulley, Heavy–light, absent
present:

rethinking

the

weight

of

imprisonment ‘weight’ of imprisonment

-APT/PRI,
Balancing security and
https://bit.ly/3chygDh
Dignity
in Prisons
https://bit.ly/3chygDh

sures, suicide prevention, mental health)?

5.

What standards are important to prevent violence?
International standards allow the use of force by law enforcement in prison
only as a last resort and if not excessive. Prison administrations and staff
should prevent conflicts before they escalate and apply the principles of
dynamic security by:

Do you receive appropriate training about violence reduction?
ation, conflict resolution, prevention and mediation skills, use of

64ff

Additional resources

https://rm.coe.int/final-training-manual-on-dynamic-security-june-2018-koregirana-4-/16808ccae2

Is the prison sufficiently staffed (staff/prisoner ratio; number of
psycho-social staff members etc.)?

https://search.coe.int/cm/Pages/result_details.aspx?ObjectId=09000016809ee581#globalcontainer

-If the State fails to exercise due diligence in preventing and protecting
-UNCAT, General Comment
No. 2
https://bit.ly/3lPXSKA
https://bit.ly/3lPXSKA
prisoners from inter-prisoner violence

escalate, e.g. conflict prevention, mediation or any other alternative dispute resolution mechanism?

-UN Basic Principles on the Use
https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/useofforceandfirearms.aspx

-If the use of force by prison staff against prisoners is excessive, that is not in

Rights

https://rm.coe.int/16806cd24c
-CPT Standards
-FRA Database on detention
https://bit.ly/3d3vO2r

and examine factors that contribute to its occurrence. They can therefore play an important role in

symbols,

Key standards

https://bit.ly/31mHRCt
-The Istanbul Protocol
https://bit.ly/3rhPfJV
-ECtHR, Guide on Prisoners’

against Torture (OPCAT), are mandated to visit places of detention to prevent torture and ill-treatment

What do international standards say?
When does violence amount to torture or
other forms of ill-treatment?

https://bit.ly/3d17Uow
-UN
Mandela Rules & Guidance
Document
by ODIHR/PRI
https://bit.ly/2NVH2xG

National Preventive Mechanisms, established under the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention

‘them

Examples:

violence;

protection against reprisals and respect for victims’ rights

Cultural violence:
is based on social norms that
justify or legitimise direct or
structural violence

Examples: Beatings; Bullying;

Key standards &
resources
-European
Prison Rules &
https://bit.ly/3rjQXuC
https://bit.ly/3rjQXuC
Commentary

-An individualised risk and needs assessments for all prisoners

Is the prison environment safe and decent? How are the current living conditions for prisoners (especially with
regard to accommodation, purposeful activities outside the cells and rehabilitation)?

6.

Are prisoners treated fairly and with respect? Do they treat you with respect in return?

7.

Do you have a close and good relationship with prisoners? Are you supportive of prisoners’ needs whenever possible

To find out more about prison violence consult our Handbook:
https://bit.ly/3dpxbdr
https://bit.ly/3dpxbdr
https://bit.ly/3dpxbdr
https://bit.ly/3dpxbdr
https://bit.ly/3dpxbdr
“Monitoring
Prison Violence:
A Handbook
for National Preventive
Mechanisms”

For further information on other thematic issues, please refer to our publications on:
https://bit.ly/32lZO4E
https://bit.ly/2Q5Ngfe
Solitary
confinement,https://bit.ly/2Q5Ngfe
Persons in a situation
of vulnerability, Complaint
procedures
https://bit.ly/2Qycv9R

Select target paragraph3