To ensure your safety in prison:

  • The prison staff must respect your human rights and dignity. They cannot use their authority to verbally or physically harass or abuse you 
  • The prison staff must protect you from other inmates who might harass or harm you

You have the duty as a prisoner to prevent a potential conflict by alerting the prison staff or administration.

Treatment by prison staff

The prison staff have certain authority over you. Therefore, they must exercise it according to law and in a neutral and impersonal manner. This means that the prison staff must respect your human rights in their work and behaviour regardless of who you are and the crimes you may have committed. 

Generally, this means that they cannot torture you, use excessive force against you or expose you to any treatment that is inhumane or degrading. Such treatment may include physical or verbal harassment and humiliation, for example, the continued use of derogatory language, the denial of your rights, unnecessary body searches or methods of punishment that are not allowed by law and are forbidden by human rights.

Exceptions

There are exceptional situations in which prison staff are allowed to punish prisoners for certain offences or even use force. For example, where the internal regulations of the prison have been violated or a prisoner poses danger to others or to him/herself. Learn more about prison order and security measures.

Protection from other inmates

In addition, the prison staff must not expose you to people who might harass, attack or harm you by placing you in the same cell with them or by putting you in contact with them in any other way. The prison staff must also do everything reasonably in their power to prevent possible conflicts between you and other prisoners. If there has been conflict, the prison administration has to investigate it fully and take action to prevent similar conflicts in future. 

Your duty as a prisoner

It is not just the prison administration and staff who are responsible for your safety. As a prisoner, you have the duty to alert prison staff if you believe that you are in danger or a conflict might arise between you and other prisoners. 

If you feel that you are being harassed by prison staff, you can complain to the prison director, the prosecutor or the administrative court. Where there has been physical abuse or a crime committed against you by prison staff, you should complain to the prosecutor’s office.

What human rights violation may there be?

If the prison administration fails in its duty to protect you, it may result in a violation of the prohibition against torture, inhumane or degrading treatment or even the right to life

If you failed to prevent the conflict yourself by not alerting prison staff or the administration when it was possible, you may not be able to claim that the prison staff or administration failed to protect you, especially if they could not know about such conflict. In this situation, they might not be held fully responsible for your safety and the violation of your human rights.

About this section

In this section you can read more about the responsibilities of the prison administration to protect you, and your duties to protect yourself from potential conflicts with other inmates. It also explains what human rights violations may arise in which situations. For more information on the use of force by prison staff, read the section on Prison order.

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