The applicant, Mr. Razvyazkin, was serving his prison sentence. He was repeatedly disciplined for breaching colony rules, including by placement in punishment cells and solitary confinement cells.
Mr. Razvyazkin complained that the conditions of his almost uninterrupted solitary confinement for almost 3 years violated Article 3 of the Convention.
The Court noted that the prohibition of contact with other prisoners for security, disciplinary or protective reasons does not in itself amount to inhuman treatment or punishment. However given the potentially damaging effects of solitary confinement, it should be used as a disciplinary punishment only in exceptional cases, as a last resort, and for the shortest possible period of time. Whether such measure falls within the scope of Article 3 depends on the particular conditions, the stringency of the measure, its duration, the objective pursued and its effects on the person concerned.
The Court also stressed that substantive reasons must be given when a protracted period of solitary confinement is extended. Such decision must reveal that the authorities have carried out a reassessment that takes into account any changes in the prisoner’s circumstances, situation or behavior. The statement of reasons will need to be increasingly detailed and compelling the more time goes by. A system of regular monitoring of the prisoner’s physical and mental condition should also be set up in order to ensure its compatibility with continued solitary confinement.
In the particular case the Court noted that in addition to social isolation, placement in solitary confinement was associated with further restrictions on contact with the outside world and access too outdoor exercise. The domestic authorities had also failed to provide any substantive reasons for the necessity such prolonged placement in solitary confinement. In addition, the authorities had not carried out proper evaluation on the impact of solitary confinement on the applicant’s physical and mental health. Therefore the Court found that the applicant’s placement in solitary confinement amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment.