Contacts with the outside world

Detainees are in prison either to execute a sentence or pending trials, and the vast majority of them will one day be released back into the community. Ensuring detainees can maintain contact with their families through visits, telephone calls and correspondence is a fundamental right that cannot be removed as a punishment. It can provide vital support to detainees and assist with their reintegration on release. Limitations on this contact by authorities are permissible but restrictions should be necessary and proportionate.

Keeping in touch with the outside world through television, radio, newspapers and magazines is also of great importance for detainees’ mental health, and contributes to their ability to successfully integrate with society upon release. Authorities should provide detainees with access to a range of material and mediums that cater to the needs and interests of different age, gender and language groups and differing physical and mental abilities.

When foreigners are detained, access to consular assistance is an important right that can reduce risks of ill-treatment and assist with ensuring they have access to legal assistance for their trial. Consular officials can also assist with obtaining interpreters and putting detainees in touch with their family or local support groups.

There are ever-present risks in the detention environment that corrupt practices by prison staff or internal detainee governance structures result in some detainees not being able to access the outside world. Furthermore, detainees in a situation of vulnerability such as women, children and young people, LGBTI detainees, indigenous people and foreigners face systemic disadvantages – for example, through language barriers.

Access to external information

The right of detainees to access the outside world implies regular and meaningful access to news, information and entertainment that is freely available outside detention. Television, radio, newspapers, books and periodicals are all a means for detainees to stay in contact with developments in…
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Consular contacts

Detention – particularly the initial days - can be a very traumatic experience for foreign national prisoners. Many do not speak the local language, and they may not understand why they are detained or how the legal system in the country operates.  In these circumstances, the right of…
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All detainees have the right to send and receive mail and to make and receive telephone calls, except in very specific situations. Any limitations on this right should be done on legitimate grounds, in the least restrictive way and for the shortest time possible. Telephone calls and…
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Family visits

When someone is deprived of his or her liberty, family connections often take on a heightened importance. Family members can play a vital emotional and material support role to detainees in difficult times. Contact with family whilst in detention represents a link between the detainee and the…
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