Ila Detention and Security Prison

The Parliamentary Ombudsman is very concerned about the situation of isolated inmates at Ila Detention and Security Prison

After a visit to Ila Detention and Security Prison, the Parliamentary Ombudsman takes a very serious view of the fact that persons with mental disorders are isolated for prolonged periods.

The report in Norwegian is available here.

‘I am concerned about the situation for certain inmates who, in practice, have been in isolation for a long time. The prison uses extensive resources on activating these inmates. They are nevertheless unable to treat this group’s mental disorders within the current framework. The authorities must implement measures to ensure that this group of inmates are offered satisfactory treatment and that their isolation ceases,’ says Aage Thor Falkanger.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman’s National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) visited Ila Detention and Security Prison on 6–9 March 2017. The date of the visit was not announced in advance. The prison has 124 places divided between 12 sections and 230 employees. More than half of the places are adapted for inmates sentenced to preventive detention. The visit included eight of the 12 sections. An inspection was carried out of the prison, and interviews were conducted with a large number of inmates, staff and management. The Parliamentary Ombudsman is also concerned about other isolated inmates at Ila Detention and Security Prison. Research shows that the psychological effects of isolation can arise quickly, and that the risk increases with each passing day.

‘It is important that all inmates who are isolated by the prison or during remand in custody have access to meaningful activities to ensure that they are not exposed to the harmful effects of isolation. The state of the buildings and the resource situation at Ila also mean that even inmates who are not in long-term isolation risk being locked in their cells for 22 hours or more without activity,’ says Aage Thor Falkanger.

Unsatisfactory sanitary conditions

With the exceptions of two sections, none of the cells had a toilet or shower. The prison does not have enough staff to escort inmates to the toilet at night. Most of the inmates choose to solve this by urinating in the sink and some defecate in the rubbish bin. This solution is not acceptable. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) also pointed this out after its visit in 2011.

‘Until toilets have been installed in all cells, the inmates should be able to use the toilets when necessary, at all hours of the day,’ says Aage Thor Falkanger.

Most inmates feel safe

The inmates largely gave the impression that they felt safe. However, views differed somewhat between inmates in the different sections, and it was stated that there had been episodes where certain groups of inmates had been harassed. The inmates who stated that they did not feel safe made particular reference to low staffing levels, which led to fewer staff being present during communal activities.

‘It is positive that the prison administration has a zero-tolerance policy of harassment and bullying, and that measures are implemented immediately when such episodes come to light. To prevent such episodes, it is, however, important that the staff ensure that harassment is prevented or quickly identified,’ says Aage Thor Falkanger.

Problematic aspects of body searches and the collection of urine samples

Body searches and the collection of urine samples are particularly invasive measures, and it is important that they take place in a dignified manner. It was found the physical conditions under which these measures are conducted at Ila Detention and Security Prison were poorly suited. As regards body searches on arrival, the conditions will improve when the prison starts using its new arrival building.

‘The practice of using both male and female officers for full body searches and the collection of urine samples is not in accordance with international guidelines and should be changed,’ says Aage Thor Falkanger.