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Human rights campaigners concerned by ‘inhuman treatment’ in Scotland's prisons

RIGHTS campaigners raised concerns today about “inhuman and degrading treatment” of those being held in Scottish prisons during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to MSPs, the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) said it is deeply worried about breaches of prisoners’ human rights.

The commission says it has knowledge of people being confined to their cell for 24 hours a day with no access to shower facilities or time out of cell, including outdoor exercise.

It also claims some inmates who have been self-isolating in response to Covid-19 have had phone contact with their lawyer limited and communication with families cut off. 

The SHRC said the current conditions being experienced by some people in Scottish prisons could amount to inhuman and degrading treatment, in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Judith Robertson, chairwoman of the SHRC, said: “Measures taken to protect health cannot override people’s fundamental rights.”

The group added that solitary confinement, which impacts significantly on mental and physical health, should only ever be adopted where it is proportionate and subject to procedural safeguards.

Speaking at the government’s daily briefing, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said that efforts will be made to relieve extra restrictions on those in custody as soon as possible. 

A spokesman for the Scottish Prison Service told the Morning Star that the issues raised regarding isolation were representative of a very small number of inmates. Prisoners had only been confined to their cells on medical grounds and sanitation access had been maintained, they said.

As many as 8,000 mobile phones have also been ordered by the service to provide prisoners with call access, with virtual visits expected to be trialled this week.

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