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Time to Review Rules on Solitary Confinement?

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Time to Review Rules on Solitary Confinement?

Photo: Ed Gregory.

According to a forensic psychologist, the fact that police in Iceland relatively frequently place suspects in solitary confinement is a problem that must be addressed. Gísli Guðjónsson, who is professor emeritus of forensic psychology at King’s College London, told RÚV that this method appears to be practiced in Iceland to soften up suspects and make them more cooperative before interrogations. He warns that the consequences can be serious for the prisoner and that the likelihood of false confessions increases.

RÚV reported earlier this week that suspects in police custody in Iceland are placed in solitary confinement up to 20 times as often as their counterparts in Denmark.

Gísli, an internationally recognized expert on false memory syndrome, stated that solitary confinement has a strong effect on people; their sense of reality is distorted, they become suggestible and can begin to doubt their own memory.

“This should not be misused,” he stated, “as a soften up procedure, as it’s called in the UK, to make people more suppliant during interrogations and such. That’s simply abuse.”

Gísli was a guest of RÚV’s news analysis program Kastljós last night to discuss the case of Guðmundur Guðlaugsson, an innocent man who in 2010 was subjected to 11 days of solitary confinement. Guðmundur, falsely supected of involvement in a narcotics case, has said the solitary confinement led him to suspect he might have done something that made him guilty.

Guðmundur was denied the right to go outdoors for fresh air, as well as access to a doctor, and all night long, the light was left on in his cell at the police station, where conditions were deplorable. The police say the reason he was being held at the police station was due to a lack of room in prison.

Gísli is of the opinion that Icelandic authorities ought to review rules and conditions regarding solitary confinement. Following his confinement, Guðmundur lost his job and battled health problems. The Supreme Court of Iceland ruled that in his case, the Icelandic State had violated a clause in the constitution that bans any sort of torture or humiliation of citizens.

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