Use of force

Key Elements

In prisons, recourse to force must always be the exception and it must always be used as a last resort. There are only three strictly defined situations which may justify the use of force:

1) In the case of legitimate self-defence, when there is an immediate threat of physical violence to a member of the prison staff, a co-detainee or a third party;

2) in the case of an attempted escape;

3) in the case of a detainee refusing to comply with a lawful order, and always as a last resort.

To prevent any abuse, recourse to force must respect the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality. Monitoring procedures must also be put in place, and those responsible for abuse must be held accountable.

Prison staff and any others responsible for maintaining order who can intervene in prison, such as special forces who can be called in when there is a mutiny or other serious incidents, must be duly trained in the risks related to resorting to force and in the legal framework that allows them to intervene.