In a unanimous verdict this morning, the Supreme Court ruled that inmates in Sanctarian prisons had a constitutional privilege against unreasonable solitary confinement. The ruling, which caught the government by surprise this morning, will come into effect from 01 May of this year.
The Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s original decision that to detain a prisoner in solitary confinement for a reason other than safety breached an individual’s constitutional right to liberty. The case came about after it was alleged that prison officers across the country often put inmates that breached minor prison violations such as talking after lights out, or failure to keep cells clean, into solitary confinement as a disciplinary method.
Speaking this morning after the verdict was announced, Justice Secretary Eric Hill stressed that “by and large, prison officers across the country work diligently to keep inmates safe. On the foot of this verdict a review of federal prison policies will be taken by my Department to ensure prison officers can continue to keep safety a priority, while keeping safe themselves.” Hill also expressed surprise that the verdict was unanimous also saying “[the Government] didn’t expect the verdict this morning, to be honest, we thought it would be another few weeks before the Court came to a decision”.
Lawyers for the plaintiff in the case, a Mr. John Sommers, expressed delight at the verdict and indicated they would be pursuing civil damages against the federal government for the time in unreasonable solitary confinement their client faced.