Accommodation

Key elements

In light of the number of hours spent in cells or dormitories on a daily basis, the conditions of accommodation have a considerable impact on the experience of deprivation of liberty. The minimum standards of these conditions must be compatible with human dignity.

The architecture of the place of detention, and in particular the design of the cells, must contribute to guaranteeing the safety of the people housed there and ensure that each individual has some privacy.

Cells and dormitories should be equipped with  bathrooms and toilets and include basic furniture, in good condition, to make life in detention bearable.
Overcrowding, together with material conditions of accommodation that are below standard, may lead to situations of ill-treatment or even torture.

Analysis

If prisons represent the place where people in detention live, their cell and dormitory may be considered as their “home”. This is where they spend most of their time, at least at night, and often the entire day. The configuration and material conditions of their accommodation therefore represent essential aspects to alleviate the harmful effects of deprivation of liberty.

The material conditions of the accommodation should be comparable to average living standards in the outside world, which is generally far from being the case in prisons. The living conditions inside establishments must safeguard the dignity of the person if they are not to constitute a form of ill-treatment or torture.

The accommodation of detainees must respect the principle of separating people on remand from those who have been sentenced, men from women, and adults from children.

Architecture and design

The architecture of the place of detention must ensure that the living spaces are both safe and sound. Moreover, the design of these places must guarantee a minimum amount of privacy and contribute to the aim of rehabilitation. In practice, living conditions vary considerably from one country to another, but also from one establishment to another, in particular because of their size, state of wear, standard of cleanliness, or else because of the type of regime in operation.

The oldest establishments tend not to provide adequate living conditions, because of risks associated with poor sanitation, but also because of the way they were designed. The same is true of places which were not originally intended to be prisons but which were later converted as such. It can also happen that, because of lack of space within a prison, areas such as stock rooms or workshops are turned into cells, even though they do not fulfil satisfactory conditions for accommodation.

Newer establishments sometimes feature architecture that tends to dehumanise social relationships. Even if modern prisons often provide higher quality material conditions of accommodation, they tend to prioritise the need for security and a concern for economy to the detriment of rehabilitation objectives.

Noise disturbance, within the context of deprivation of liberty, may prove particularly hard to endure. The quality of the partitions or walls between the cells, as well as the doors and floor coverings, should guarantee a minimum level of sound-proofing, especially in establishments where detainees spend the majority of their time in their cell. Sometimes air vents are blocked by detainees because they are too noisy, thereby directly affecting the quality of air in the cells or dormitories.

Cells or dormitories?

International standards tend to encourage the use of individual cells at night, both for people on remand and for those who have been sentenced, although they recognise that in certain cases the authorities favour shared accommodation, in particular for cultural reasons. Even when that is the case, the number of detainees per shared cell should be limited and people sharing a dormitory should be carefully chosen in order to minimise the risk of abuse. As far as possible, detainees must be able to choose before being forced to share a cell with someone overnight.

Cultural factors do not, however, justify the existence of mega-dormitories, housing dozens of detainees or even more, where close proximity stamps out any possible privacy and leads to serious risks of abuse and violence. Moving detainees in and out a shared cell or dormitory, sometimes on a frequent basis, can unsettle and upset its occupants. In addition, when there are disturbances in the dormitories, it is more difficult for the authorities to avoid using force to put an end to it. Lastly, in very large dormitories the toilets are likely to be poorly maintained because of the heavy usage made of the shared facilities.

Standards recommend individual cell accommodation overnight primarily to give each person a place where they will be protected from the violence of others and to guarantee a minimum amount of privacy. This helps alleviate the constraints imposed by deprivation of liberty and facilitate eventual rehabilitation.

Size of cells and dormitories

Decent conditions of accommodation mean that detainees must have a minimum amount of living space within the prison. In an individual cell, the available space should be at least 7m2 (CPT, or 5.4m2 according to the ICRC). In shared cells and dormitories, the following minimum sizes should be respected: 10m2 for two detainees, 21m2 for five detainees, 35m2 for seven detainees and 60m2 for twelve detainees (CPT). In dormitories, the floor space available to each detainee should never be less than 4m2 (CPT, 3.4m2 according to the ICRC). This is simply a minimum standard to ensure that the conditions of detention themselves do not constitute a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The space available to each individual must be viewed alongside the length of time spent in the cell, the state of sanitation and other considerations that could impact negatively on the person’s situation. Moreover, the living space in the cell/dormitory includes not only the space for the bed, furniture and personal possessions, but also the space necessary for moving about and getting some exercise.

Considerations relating to available space must always be made alongside other factors, such as the state of sanitation of the area, the time spent out of the cell, and overcrowding.

Furniture and personalising the cells

Individual cells or those for two people must offer basic furniture in good condition including a bed, chair and table for each person, as well as a cupboard and/or set of shelves for each. A hammock cannot be considered a bed, and the bed must always have a mattress. Every bed must be at least 2m long and 0.8m wide (ICRC).

The space between the furniture must make it possible for the person to move around easily, do some exercise and work or study at his/her table. The furniture should be as nice and as ergonomic as possible. Detainees should be able to lock their authorised personal possessions and papers up in something that is closed.

In practice, it is often the case that the furnishings are insufficient and/or in poor condition, and that cupboards and places to store things are limited to a few simple shelves, at best. Detainees sometimes find themselves obliged to keep their things on their bed, or even on the floor. In some cases, because of a lack of furniture, detainees have to make their own shelving out of cardboard in order to have somewhere to keep their personal possessions.

The cell represents the detainees’ living space. It is therefore important, especially for people serving long sentences, to be able to decorate it with personal possessions, including pictures and photographs. Personalising the cell with decoration and visual stimuli should not only be permitted but actively encouraged. The staff should also show respect for the personal possessions and decorations of the detainees.

Respect for privacy

Prison is by definition a place where people’s privacy and private life are restricted. Restrictions on one’s freedom to come and go, security requirements, continuous surveillance, preventing escape attempts, and the prevention of violence all severely limit the detainees’ right to a private life. In spite of all these restrictions, the right to privacy must be guaranteed while taking account of the demands of communal living and of the mandate of establishments which deprive people of their liberty. Conditions of accommodation are therefore closely linked to the safeguarding of privacy.

Having an individual cell at night plays a large part in ensuring this essential minimum amount of privacy. Even if surveillance of the cell by a spyhole, including putting the light on at night, is practised as part of security requirements, such a practice should never be carried out on a discriminatory basis or for any other purpose than that of surveillance. In addition, the toilets should not be visible from the spyhole, the window in the door or from video surveillance cameras.

When searches of cells are carried out, even when these are justified and necessary to keep order and prevent escape attempts, efforts should always be made to limit their impact on people’s privacy, and staff in charge of searches must show respect for the personal possessions of the detainees.

Accommodation and overcrowding

Situations of overcrowding have a direct and detrimental effect on the quality of accommodation of the detainees. As soon as the maximum capacity is exceeded, the individual space of each detainee is reduced, with the risk that dormitories soon become overcrowded, detainees are sleeping on the floor and individual cells are turned into shared cells. Such situations decrease privacy and increase tensions and the risk of abuse and violence between detainees. The most vulnerable people are at particular risk. The minimum amount of privacy can no longer be guaranteed and the conditions of accommodation risk not to respect human dignity. Situations of overcrowding combined with unhealthy conditions in the accommodation and a lack of space may constitute a form of ill-treatment or even torture.

Detainees in situations of vulnerability

When the infrastructure or capacity of the place of detention do not allow for the provision of an individual cell for the whole prison population, access to individual cells at night should be given first to detainees who are considered the most vulnerable to abuse. The placing of a person in an individual cell, when this is not the norm, should not, however, be imposed and should always be done in consultation with the people involved.

The design of new places of detention should always take account of the needs of people with reduced mobility. Special cells require considerable modifications which can only be satisfactorily designed when the construction plans are drawn up. In older establishments, reasonable accommodation must be made not only to provide the necessary equipment, but also to make it possible to use a wheelchair in the cell. The size of special cells must therefore allow for accessing the toilet in a wheelchair without removing the door. The toilet must be adapted for people with reduced mobility.

Children in detention must always be separated from adults. Their accommodation must comply with the aims of rehabilitation and must satisfy security measures with as few restrictions as possible. Children should sleep in individual cells, or in small dormitories, while taking account of cultural factors and local norms. Particular account must be taken of their need for privacy in the arrangements for their accommodation. It is also important for material conditions to meet their need for sensory stimulation. 

When it is not possible to provide an individual cell at night for the whole of the prison population, this should be offered as a priority to LGBTI people, who are more exposed to the risk of abuse from fellow detainees, as long as this is what they wish. Transgender people should not be allocated to a male or female section (or prison) solely on the basis of their biological gender. Any allocation of accommodation must be done taking account of their views, and must take into consideration their perceived gender identity as well as any treatment being followed with a view to possible gender re-assignation.

Women in detention must always be separated from men. The conditions of their accommodation, especially in the case of pregnant women or breast-feeding mothers, must take account of their specific needs. Adjustments must be made for mothers detained with young children, in order to make the conditions of their accommodation as convenient as possible and must above all take account of the needs of the child.

The authorities may be inclined to arrange separate accommodation areas for detainees of different ethnic origins or nationalities in order to prevent violence. Such separation must not be routine, must be periodically reviewed and must not be done to the detriment of any one particular group (such as worse accommodation for a specific group). Even if separation may prove temporarily inevitable to prevent violence, the prison must not contribute to the stigmatisation or exclusion of certain minorities.

Legal standards (18)

Questions for monitors (15)

How much space is allocated to each detainee in an individual cell, shared cell or dormitory?

Does each detainee have a bed and a mattress?

If the detainees are accommodated in shared cells or dormitories, how is the choice of placements made?

What furniture is available in the cells and what kind of condition is it in?

Do the cells or dormitories have running water and a toilet? If so, is the toilet separated from the cell by a door?

Do the detainees have any restrictions concerning how they decorate or arrange their cell to personalise it?

Are there sufficient storage spaces to enable them to keep their personal possessions locked away?

Are the detainees exposed to noise disturbance in their cell or dormitory?

When an individual cell cannot be guaranteed for the whole of the prison population, who has priority access to an individual cell at night and on the basis of what criteria?

Are accommodations made to facilitate movement for people with reduced mobility, including wheelchair users?

Does the accommodation for women take account of their specific needs? What adaptations are made for breast-feeding mothers or mothers with young children?

What are the accommodation arrangements for children? Are their specific needs, including their need for privacy, taken into consideration?

Do LGBTI people have the possibility, if they so wish, of having an individual cell at night?

Are transgender people allocated accommodation for men or women on the basis of their biological sex or their perceived gender identity?

In shared cells or dormitories is a separation between detainees made on the basis of their nationality or ethnic origin? If it is, what is the reason for such a practice?

Further reading (7)

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Accommodation

Key elements

In light of the number of hours spent in cells or dormitories on a daily basis, the conditions of accommodation have a considerable impact on the experience of deprivation of liberty. The minimum standards of these conditions must be compatible with human dignity.

The architecture of the place of detention, and in particular the design of the cells, must contribute to guaranteeing the safety of the people housed there and ensure that each individual has some privacy.

Cells and dormitories should be equipped with  bathrooms and toilets and include basic furniture, in good condition, to make life in detention bearable.
Overcrowding, together with material conditions of accommodation that are below standard, may lead to situations of ill-treatment or even torture.

Analysis Print

If prisons represent the place where people in detention live, their cell and dormitory may be considered as their “home”. This is where they spend most of their time, at least at night, and often the entire day. The configuration and material conditions of their accommodation therefore represent essential aspects to alleviate the harmful effects of deprivation of liberty.

The material conditions of the accommodation should be comparable to average living standards in the outside world, which is generally far from being the case in prisons. The living conditions inside establishments must safeguard the dignity of the person if they are not to constitute a form of ill-treatment or torture.

The accommodation of detainees must respect the principle of separating people on remand from those who have been sentenced, men from women, and adults from children.

Architecture and design

The architecture of the place of detention must ensure that the living spaces are both safe and sound. Moreover, the design of these places must guarantee a minimum amount of privacy and contribute to the aim of rehabilitation. In practice, living conditions vary considerably from one country to another, but also from one establishment to another, in particular because of their size, state of wear, standard of cleanliness, or else because of the type of regime in operation.

The oldest establishments tend not to provide adequate living conditions, because of risks associated with poor sanitation, but also because of the way they were designed. The same is true of places which were not originally intended to be prisons but which were later converted as such. It can also happen that, because of lack of space within a prison, areas such as stock rooms or workshops are turned into cells, even though they do not fulfil satisfactory conditions for accommodation.

Newer establishments sometimes feature architecture that tends to dehumanise social relationships. Even if modern prisons often provide higher quality material conditions of accommodation, they tend to prioritise the need for security and a concern for economy to the detriment of rehabilitation objectives.

Noise disturbance, within the context of deprivation of liberty, may prove particularly hard to endure. The quality of the partitions or walls between the cells, as well as the doors and floor coverings, should guarantee a minimum level of sound-proofing, especially in establishments where detainees spend the majority of their time in their cell. Sometimes air vents are blocked by detainees because they are too noisy, thereby directly affecting the quality of air in the cells or dormitories.

Cells or dormitories?

International standards tend to encourage the use of individual cells at night, both for people on remand and for those who have been sentenced, although they recognise that in certain cases the authorities favour shared accommodation, in particular for cultural reasons. Even when that is the case, the number of detainees per shared cell should be limited and people sharing a dormitory should be carefully chosen in order to minimise the risk of abuse. As far as possible, detainees must be able to choose before being forced to share a cell with someone overnight.

Cultural factors do not, however, justify the existence of mega-dormitories, housing dozens of detainees or even more, where close proximity stamps out any possible privacy and leads to serious risks of abuse and violence. Moving detainees in and out a shared cell or dormitory, sometimes on a frequent basis, can unsettle and upset its occupants. In addition, when there are disturbances in the dormitories, it is more difficult for the authorities to avoid using force to put an end to it. Lastly, in very large dormitories the toilets are likely to be poorly maintained because of the heavy usage made of the shared facilities.

Standards recommend individual cell accommodation overnight primarily to give each person a place where they will be protected from the violence of others and to guarantee a minimum amount of privacy. This helps alleviate the constraints imposed by deprivation of liberty and facilitate eventual rehabilitation.

Size of cells and dormitories

Decent conditions of accommodation mean that detainees must have a minimum amount of living space within the prison. In an individual cell, the available space should be at least 7m2 (CPT, or 5.4m2 according to the ICRC). In shared cells and dormitories, the following minimum sizes should be respected: 10m2 for two detainees, 21m2 for five detainees, 35m2 for seven detainees and 60m2 for twelve detainees (CPT). In dormitories, the floor space available to each detainee should never be less than 4m2 (CPT, 3.4m2 according to the ICRC). This is simply a minimum standard to ensure that the conditions of detention themselves do not constitute a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The space available to each individual must be viewed alongside the length of time spent in the cell, the state of sanitation and other considerations that could impact negatively on the person’s situation. Moreover, the living space in the cell/dormitory includes not only the space for the bed, furniture and personal possessions, but also the space necessary for moving about and getting some exercise.

Considerations relating to available space must always be made alongside other factors, such as the state of sanitation of the area, the time spent out of the cell, and overcrowding.

Furniture and personalising the cells

Individual cells or those for two people must offer basic furniture in good condition including a bed, chair and table for each person, as well as a cupboard and/or set of shelves for each. A hammock cannot be considered a bed, and the bed must always have a mattress. Every bed must be at least 2m long and 0.8m wide (ICRC).

The space between the furniture must make it possible for the person to move around easily, do some exercise and work or study at his/her table. The furniture should be as nice and as ergonomic as possible. Detainees should be able to lock their authorised personal possessions and papers up in something that is closed.

In practice, it is often the case that the furnishings are insufficient and/or in poor condition, and that cupboards and places to store things are limited to a few simple shelves, at best. Detainees sometimes find themselves obliged to keep their things on their bed, or even on the floor. In some cases, because of a lack of furniture, detainees have to make their own shelving out of cardboard in order to have somewhere to keep their personal possessions.

The cell represents the detainees’ living space. It is therefore important, especially for people serving long sentences, to be able to decorate it with personal possessions, including pictures and photographs. Personalising the cell with decoration and visual stimuli should not only be permitted but actively encouraged. The staff should also show respect for the personal possessions and decorations of the detainees.

Respect for privacy

Prison is by definition a place where people’s privacy and private life are restricted. Restrictions on one’s freedom to come and go, security requirements, continuous surveillance, preventing escape attempts, and the prevention of violence all severely limit the detainees’ right to a private life. In spite of all these restrictions, the right to privacy must be guaranteed while taking account of the demands of communal living and of the mandate of establishments which deprive people of their liberty. Conditions of accommodation are therefore closely linked to the safeguarding of privacy.

Having an individual cell at night plays a large part in ensuring this essential minimum amount of privacy. Even if surveillance of the cell by a spyhole, including putting the light on at night, is practised as part of security requirements, such a practice should never be carried out on a discriminatory basis or for any other purpose than that of surveillance. In addition, the toilets should not be visible from the spyhole, the window in the door or from video surveillance cameras.

When searches of cells are carried out, even when these are justified and necessary to keep order and prevent escape attempts, efforts should always be made to limit their impact on people’s privacy, and staff in charge of searches must show respect for the personal possessions of the detainees.

Accommodation and overcrowding

Situations of overcrowding have a direct and detrimental effect on the quality of accommodation of the detainees. As soon as the maximum capacity is exceeded, the individual space of each detainee is reduced, with the risk that dormitories soon become overcrowded, detainees are sleeping on the floor and individual cells are turned into shared cells. Such situations decrease privacy and increase tensions and the risk of abuse and violence between detainees. The most vulnerable people are at particular risk. The minimum amount of privacy can no longer be guaranteed and the conditions of accommodation risk not to respect human dignity. Situations of overcrowding combined with unhealthy conditions in the accommodation and a lack of space may constitute a form of ill-treatment or even torture.

Detainees in situations of vulnerability

When the infrastructure or capacity of the place of detention do not allow for the provision of an individual cell for the whole prison population, access to individual cells at night should be given first to detainees who are considered the most vulnerable to abuse. The placing of a person in an individual cell, when this is not the norm, should not, however, be imposed and should always be done in consultation with the people involved.

The design of new places of detention should always take account of the needs of people with reduced mobility. Special cells require considerable modifications which can only be satisfactorily designed when the construction plans are drawn up. In older establishments, reasonable accommodation must be made not only to provide the necessary equipment, but also to make it possible to use a wheelchair in the cell. The size of special cells must therefore allow for accessing the toilet in a wheelchair without removing the door. The toilet must be adapted for people with reduced mobility.

Children in detention must always be separated from adults. Their accommodation must comply with the aims of rehabilitation and must satisfy security measures with as few restrictions as possible. Children should sleep in individual cells, or in small dormitories, while taking account of cultural factors and local norms. Particular account must be taken of their need for privacy in the arrangements for their accommodation. It is also important for material conditions to meet their need for sensory stimulation. 

When it is not possible to provide an individual cell at night for the whole of the prison population, this should be offered as a priority to LGBTI people, who are more exposed to the risk of abuse from fellow detainees, as long as this is what they wish. Transgender people should not be allocated to a male or female section (or prison) solely on the basis of their biological gender. Any allocation of accommodation must be done taking account of their views, and must take into consideration their perceived gender identity as well as any treatment being followed with a view to possible gender re-assignation.

Women in detention must always be separated from men. The conditions of their accommodation, especially in the case of pregnant women or breast-feeding mothers, must take account of their specific needs. Adjustments must be made for mothers detained with young children, in order to make the conditions of their accommodation as convenient as possible and must above all take account of the needs of the child.

The authorities may be inclined to arrange separate accommodation areas for detainees of different ethnic origins or nationalities in order to prevent violence. Such separation must not be routine, must be periodically reviewed and must not be done to the detriment of any one particular group (such as worse accommodation for a specific group). Even if separation may prove temporarily inevitable to prevent violence, the prison must not contribute to the stigmatisation or exclusion of certain minorities.

Legal standards (18) Print

United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules)

Rule 5.2

Prison administrations shall make all reasonable accommodation and adjustments to ensure that prisoners with physical, mental or other disabilities have full and effective access to prison life on an equitable basis.

Rule 12

1. Where sleeping accommodation is in individual cells or rooms, each prisoner shall occupy by night a cell or room by himself or herself. If for special reasons, such as temporary overcrowding, it becomes necessary for the central prison administration to make an exception to this rule, it is not desirable to have two prisoners in a cell or room.

2. Where dormitories are used, they shall be occupied by prisoners carefully selected as being suitable to associate with one another in those conditions. There shall be regular supervision by night, in keeping with the nature of the prison.

Rule 13

All accommodation provided for the use of prisoners and in particular all sleeping accommodation shall meet all requirements of health, due regard being paid to climatic conditions and particularly to cubic content of air, minimum floor space, lighting, heating and ventilation.

Rule 17

All parts of a prison regularly used by prisoners shall be properly maintained and kept scrupulously clean at all times.

Rule 42

General living conditions addressed in these rules, including those related to light, ventilation, temperature, sanitation, nutrition, drinking water, access to open air and physical exercise, personal hygiene, health care and adequate personal space, shall apply to all prisoners without exception.

Rule 59

Prisoners shall be allocated, to the extent possible, to prisons close to their homes or their places of social rehabilitation.

United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty

Rule 32

The design of detention facilities for juveniles and the physical environment should be in keeping with the rehabilitative aim of residential treatment, with due regard to the need of the juvenile for privacy, sensory stimuli, opportunities for association with peers and participation in sports, physical exercise and leisure-time activities.  The design and structure of juvenile detention facilities should be such as to minimize the risk of fire and to ensure safe evacuation from the premises.  There should be an effective alarm system in case of fire, as well as formal and drilled procedures toensure the safety of the juveniles.  Detention facilities should not be located in areas where there are known health or other hazards or risks.

Rule 33

Sleeping accommodation should normally consist of small group dormitories or individual bedrooms, account being taken of local standards.  During sleeping hours there should be regular, unobtrusive supervision of all sleeping areas, including individual rooms and group dormitories, in order to ensure the protection of each juvenile.  Every juvenile should, in accordance with local or national standards, be provided with separate and sufficient bedding, which should be clean when issued, kept in good order and changed often enough to ensure cleanliness.

Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention - A/HRC/7/4

Paragraphe 57

In this context the Working Group reiterates the obligation of States to protect those who are held in their custody from assaults and abuses by fellow detainees. It is imperative to allocate entirely separate premises to women in institutions which receive both men and women, if it is not possible to detain women in separate institutions, and to keep young prisoners separate from adults as, for example, envisaged by paragraph 8 of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. The obligation to protect the right to freedom from violence is even more obvious as far as abuses committed by State authorities are concerned.

Paragraphe 81

As to vulnerable groups in detention which are susceptible to sexual abuse, the Working Group makes the following recommendations:

(a) States in which sexual abuse of detainees by fellow inmates or by State authorities is reported should take measures as a matter of urgency to ensure that juveniles are held separate from adults and women separate from men. Custodians of female prisoners should be women;

United Nations Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Report to the General Assembly, 30 July 2015, A/70/212

Paragraph 57

Failure to accommodate a convicted minority prisoner’s particular needs may cause so much additional suffering, compared with that of non-minority prisoners in an equivalent position, as to render the punishment discriminatory and a violation of equality before the law. Such punishment could constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or even torture.

Paragraph 58

[...] The requirement that there be an attempt to place each prisoner in a facility near his or her home takes on particular importance for minority prisoners in the case where a particular minority is geographically concentrated.

Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, A/HRC/28/68, 5 March 2015

Paragraph 76

[...] Children in conflict with the law should be held in detention centres specifically designed for persons under the age of 18 years, offering a non-prison-like environment and regimes tailored to their needs and run by specialized staff, trained in dealing with children. Such facilities should offer ready access to natural light and adequate ventilation, access to sanitary facilities that are hygienic and respect privacy and, in principle, accommodation in individual bedrooms. Large dormitories should be avoided.

Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Guidelines on article 14, The right to liberty and security of persons with disabilities, Adopted during the Committee’s 14th session, September 2015

IX. Conditions of detention of persons with disabilities

17. The Committee has expressed its concerns for the poor living conditions in places of detention, particularly prisons, and has recommended that States parties ensure that places of detention are accessible and provide humane living conditions. More recently, it recommended “that immediate steps are [to be] taken to address the poor living conditions in institutions.”  This Committee has recommended that States parties establish legal frameworks for the provision of reasonable accommodation that preserve the dignity of persons with disabilities, and guarantee this right for those detained in prisons.   It has also addressed the need to “[p]romote training mechanisms for justice and prison officials in accordance with the Convention’s legal paradigm”.

18. While developing its jurisprudence under the Optional Protocol to the Convention , the Committee has affirmed that, under article 14(2) of the Convention, persons with disabilities deprived of their liberty have the right to be treated in compliance with the objectives and principles of the Convention, including conditions of accessibility and reasonable accommodation. The Committee has recalled that States parties must take all relevant measures to ensure that persons with disabilities who are detained may live independently and participate fully in all aspects of daily life in their place of detention, including ensuring their access, on an equal basis with others, to the various areas and services, such as bathrooms, yards, libraries, study areas, workshops and medical, psychological, social and legal services.  The Committee has stressed that a lack of accessibility and reasonable accommodation places persons with disabilities in sub-standard conditions of detention that are incompatible with article 17 of the Convention and may constitute a breach of article 15(2).

Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, A/HRC/31/57, 5 January 2016

Paragraph 70

With regard to women, girls, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in detention, the Special Rapporteur calls on all States to:

[...] (s) Take individuals’ gender identity and choice into account prior to placement and provide opportunities to appeal placement decisions; [...]

Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions on a gender-sensitive approach to arbitrary killings, A/HRC/35/23, 6 June 2017

Paragraph 46. Transgender individuals in custody

Transgender women may be at heightened risk of violence and abuse when placed in male prisons or jails. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), when accommodated according to their birth gender, especially when male-to-female transgender prisoners are placed in men’s prisons, transgender prisoners are often subjected to extreme physical, sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of inmates and penitentiary or police officials.  In some cases, transgender women in need of life-saving medical treatment have died owing to discrimination in and denial of access to essential services.  Advocates have warned of the risk of “mis-gendering” in prisons as a serious form of violence. Killings of transgender persons in conditions of detention that fail to take into account the risks they face, where these and the seriousness of the harm could be well foreseen owing to their gender expression, are arbitrary.

Paragraph 110

Noting that on the basis of their gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and intersex persons are particularly exposed to violence and killings by both State and non-State actors, States should:

(e) Ensure that judicial and prison authorities, when deciding allocation of trans-gender person to either a male or female prison, do so in consultation with the prisoner concerned and on a case-by-case basis. Safety considerations and the wishes of the individual must be paramount.

European Prison Rules

Rule 18.5

Prisoners shall normally be accommodated during the night in individual cells except where it is preferable for them to share sleeping accommodation.

Rule 18.6

Accommodation shall only be shared if it is suitable for this purpose and shall be occupied by prisoners suitable to associate with each other.

Rule 18.7

As far as possible, prisoners shall be given a choice before being required to share sleeping accommodation.

Rule 18.10

Accommodation of all prisoners shall be in conditions with the least restrictive security arrangements compatible with the risk of their escaping or harming themselves or others.

Rule 96

As far as possible untried prisoners shall be given the option of accommodation in single cells, unless they may benefit from sharing accommodation with other untried prisoners or unless a court has made a specific order on how a specific untried prisoner should be accommodated.

Principles and Best Practices on the Protection of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas

Principle XII - 1. Accommodation

Persons deprived of liberty shall have adequate floor space, daily exposure to natural light, appropriate ventilation and heating, according to the climatic conditions of their place of deprivation of liberty. They shall be provided with a separate bed, suitable bed clothing, and all other conditions that are indispensable for nocturnal rest. The installations shall take into account the special needs of the sick, persons with disabilities, children, pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers, and the elderly, amongst others.

Extract from the 7th General Report [CPT/Inf (97) 10]

Paragraphe 28

On occasion, CPT delegations have found immigration detainees held in prisons. Even if the actual conditions of detention for these persons in the establishments concerned are adequate -which has not always been the case - the CPT considers such an approach to be fundamentally flawed. A prison is by definition not a suitable place in which to detain someone who is neither convicted nor suspected of a criminal offence.

Admittedly, in certain exceptional cases, it might be appropriate to hold an immigration detainee in a prison, because of a known potential for violence. Further, an immigration detainee in need of in-patient treatment might have to be accommodated temporarily in a prison health-care facility, in the event of no other secure hospital facility being available. However, such detainees should be held quite separately from prisoners, whether on remand or convicted.

Extract from the 9th General Report [CPT/Inf (99) 12]

Paragraphe 29

A well-designed juvenile detention centre will provide positive and personalised conditions of detention for young persons deprived of their liberty. In addition to being of an adequate size, well lit and ventilated, juveniles' sleeping and living areas should be properly furnished, well-decorated and offer appropriate visual stimuli. Unless there are compelling security reasons to the contrary, juveniles should be allowed to keep a reasonable quantity of personal items.

Extract from the 11th General Report [CPT/Inf (2001) 16]

Paragraphe 29

In a number of countries visited by the CPT, particularly in central and eastern Europe, inmate accommodation often consists of large capacity dormitories which contain all or most of the facilities used by prisoners on a daily basis, such as sleeping and living areas as well as sanitary facilities. The CPT has objections to the very principle of such accommodation arrangements in closed prisons and those objections are reinforced when, as is frequently the case, the dormitories in question are found to hold prisoners under extremely cramped and insalubrious conditions. No doubt, various factors - including those of a cultural nature - can make it preferable in certain countries to provide multi-occupancy accommodation for prisoners rather than individual cells. However, there is little to be said in favour of - and a lot to be said against - arrangements under which tens of prisoners live and sleep together in the same dormitory.

Large-capacity dormitories inevitably imply a lack of privacy for prisoners in their everyday lives. Moreover, the risk of intimidation and violence is high. Such accommodation arrangements are prone to foster the development of offender subcultures and to facilitate the maintenance of the cohesion of criminal organisations. They can also render proper staff control extremely difficult, if not impossible; more specifically, in case of prison disturbances, outside interventions involving the use of considerable force are difficult to avoid. With such accommodation, the appropriate allocation of individual prisoners, based on a case by case risk and needs assessment, also becomes an almost impossible exercise. All these problems are exacerbated when the numbers held go beyond a reasonable occupancy level; further, in such a situation the excessive burden on communal facilities such as washbasins or lavatories and the insufficient ventilation for so many persons will often lead to deplorable conditions.

The CPT must nevertheless stress that moves away from large-capacity dormitories towards smaller living units have to be accompanied by measures to ensure that prisoners spend a reasonable part of the day engaged in purposeful activities of a varied nature outside their living unit.

Extract from the 19th General Report [CPT/Inf (2009) 27]

Paragraphe 100

In order to limit the risk of exploitation, special arrangements should be made for living quarters that are suitable for children, for example, by separating them from adults, unless it is considered in the child’s best interests not to do so. This would, for instance, be the case when children are in the company of their parents or other close relatives. In that case, every effort should be made to avoid splitting up the family.

Extract from the 10th General Report [CPT/Inf (2000) 13]

Paragraphe 24

The duty of care which is owed by a State to persons deprived of their liberty includes the duty to protect them from others who may wish to cause them harm. The CPT has occasionally encountered allegations of woman upon woman abuse. However, allegations of ill-treatment of women in custody by men (and, more particularly, of sexual harassment, including verbal abuse with sexual connotations) arise more frequently, in particular when a State fails to provide separate accommodation for women deprived of their liberty with a preponderance of female staff supervising such accommodation.

As a matter of principle, women deprived of their liberty should be held in accommodation which is physically separate from that occupied by any men being held at the same establishment. That said, some States have begun to make arrangements for couples (both of whom are deprived of their liberty) to be accommodated together, and/or for some degree of mixed gender association in prisons. The CPT welcomes such progressive arrangements, provided that the prisoners involved agree to participate, and are carefully selected and adequately supervised.

24th General Report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture

Paragraph 104

A well-designed juvenile detention centre should provide positive and personalised conditions of detention for young persons, respecting their dignity and privacy. All rooms should be appropriately furnished and provide good access to natural light and adequate ventilation.

Juveniles should normally be accommodated in individual bedrooms; reasons should be provided explaining why it is in the best interests of the juvenile to share sleeping accommodation with another inmate. Juveniles should be consulted before being required to share sleeping accommodation and should be able to state with whom they would wish to be accommodated.

Every efort should be made to avoid placing juveniles in large dormitories as the CPT’s experience is that this putsjuveniles at a signifcantly higher risk of violence and exploitation. Indeed, establishments with large dormitories should be phased out.

General Comment No. 1 (Article 30 Of The African Charter On The Rights And Welfare Of The Child) On: “Children Of Incarcerated And Imprisoned Parents And Primary Caregivers”

3.1.3 Establish special alternative institutions for holding such mothers

50. Article 30 (1) (c) calls on States Parties to establish ‘special alternative institutions’ for holding mothers. Many States Parties do not allocate sufficient resources to prison upgrades such that special alternative institutions which protect the rights of children could realistically be established. Therefore, such institutions should only be considered as a last resort where alternatives to detention cannot be considered and it is in a child’s best interests to remain with their mother or primary caregiver.

51. Such institutions must focus on realising children’s rights; for instance, programs that allow mothers to reside together with their infants in prison nurseries could be expanded and employed where deemed in a child’s interests. Work-release programs that expand the opportunities for work release in lieu of prison and also provide greater opportunities for incarcerated parents to participate in direct care of their children should be encouraged.

52. In addition, expanding treatment programs and providing priority for substance abuse programs to parents facing incarceration could contribute to reducing incarceration and time served in incarceration facilities. The geographic location of prisons, as well as structural and financial barriers that make visits from children difficult and expensive needs to form part of the “special” nature that these incarceration facilities need to try to address. As much as possible, minimizing distance between imprisoned mothers/ parents and children should be embraced as a policy of incarceration facilities. Making funds available for smaller facilities or halfway houses that could be built in communities to accommodate non-violent inmates with children might be worth consideration.

53. It is important for States Parties to ensure that reforms are implemented comprehensively and do not depend upon the good will and direction of the facilities’ leadership and personnel, but rather upon the force of law.

Guidelines on the Conditions of Arrest, Police Custody and Pre-Trial Detention in Africa

24. Physical conditions

Conditions of detention in police custody and pre-trial detention shall conform with all applicable international law and standards. They shall guarantee the right of detainees in police custody and pre-trial detention to be treated with respect for their inherent dignity, and to be protected from torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.

33. Persons with disabilities

d. Accessibility and reasonable accommodation States shall take measures to ensure that:

i. Persons with disabilities can access, on an equal basis with other persons subject to police custody and pre-trial detention, the physical environment, information and communications, and other facilities provided by the detaining authority. Accessibility should also take into account the gender and age of persons with disability, and equal access should be provided regardless of the type of impairment, legal status, social condition, gender and age of the detainee.

ii. The physical conditions of police custody and pre-trial detention are adapted to take into account the needs of persons with physical, mental, intellectual or sensory disabilities, and that the detention of persons with disability does not amount to inhuman or degrading treatment.

Questions for monitors (15) Print

How much space is allocated to each detainee in an individual cell, shared cell or dormitory?

Does each detainee have a bed and a mattress?

If the detainees are accommodated in shared cells or dormitories, how is the choice of placements made?

What furniture is available in the cells and what kind of condition is it in?

Do the cells or dormitories have running water and a toilet? If so, is the toilet separated from the cell by a door?

Do the detainees have any restrictions concerning how they decorate or arrange their cell to personalise it?

Are there sufficient storage spaces to enable them to keep their personal possessions locked away?

Are the detainees exposed to noise disturbance in their cell or dormitory?

When an individual cell cannot be guaranteed for the whole of the prison population, who has priority access to an individual cell at night and on the basis of what criteria?

Are accommodations made to facilitate movement for people with reduced mobility, including wheelchair users?

Does the accommodation for women take account of their specific needs? What adaptations are made for breast-feeding mothers or mothers with young children?

What are the accommodation arrangements for children? Are their specific needs, including their need for privacy, taken into consideration?

Do LGBTI people have the possibility, if they so wish, of having an individual cell at night?

Are transgender people allocated accommodation for men or women on the basis of their biological sex or their perceived gender identity?

In shared cells or dormitories is a separation between detainees made on the basis of their nationality or ethnic origin? If it is, what is the reason for such a practice?