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“Thinking Outside the Box?” A review of seclusion and restraint practices in New Zealand

Dr Sharon Shalev and New Zealand Human Rights Commission InequalityJusticeMāoriReport
“Thinking Outside the Box?” A review of seclusion and restraint practices in New Zealand

Dr Shalev’s report highlights a number of serious issues. These include:

  • A high use of solitary confinement and restraint
  • Overrepresentation of ethnic minority groups in solitary confinement and restraint incidents
  • A small but persistent number of ‘chronic’ cases where solitary confinement and restraint were used for prolonged time
  • The placement in solitary confinement of people belonging to vulnerable groups
  • Impoverished physical environments for people who are secluded, segregated or isolated
  • Indications that seclusion and restraint are not always used as options of last resort
  • Concerns regarding the record keeping associated with seclusion and restraint in various settings
  • Limited access to basic provisions
  • Limited access to confidential complaint mechanisms


Dr Shalevs’ report is focussed on facilities that are subject to monitoring under the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (“OPCAT”). The Crimes of Torture Act 1989 designates four organisations as “National Preventive Mechanisms” or “NPMs” responsible for OPCAT monitoring. These agencies are the Office of the Ombudsman, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, the Independent Police Conduct Authority and the Inspector of Service Penal Establishments.iii The New Zealand Human Rights Commission is designated as the Central National Preventive Mechanism (or “CNPM”). As CNPM the Commission acts as a coordinator for the joint activities of the NPMs and is responsible for liaison with the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture.

The facilities that the NPMs are responsible for monitoring include prisons, health and disability units, police cells, Child, Youth and Family care and protection units and youth justice residences. There are other environments in which forms of seclusion or restraint or similar practices can occur such as schools or rest homes. Dr. Shalev’s report is confined to those environments currently covered by the OPCAT framework and does not consider seclusion or restraint in other situations.

Publication date: 27 Apr 2017 Read the full report here