Inter-detainee violence

Key Elements

Prison authorities have a positive obligation to prevent violence amongst the detainees they are responsible for. This responsibility includes a duty of care and the adoption of preventive measures to reduce the risk of violence as well as to protect the most vulnerable detainees.

Overcrowding, a lack of personnel, corruption, a disregard for the principle of detainee separation, the absence of complaint and oversight mechanisms or a lack of investigation into cases of abuse are the main risk factors that result in an increase in violence among detainees.

Delegating minor tasks - and therefore the feeling of having some responsibilities - to certain detainees can be beneficial for their psychological and physical well-being and can help with their rehabilitation. However, only minor tasks should be delegated, such as organising recreational, sporting or cultural activities. The criteria used for assigning these tasks need to be transparent and objective.  Self-governance systems in prisons, which lead to the gradual loss of control by authorities represents a major risk of violence among prisoners.  Given the State’s non-respect for due diligence that self-governance implies, the resulting situations can be considered, in certain cases, as amounting to torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.