Placement in solitary confinement is the most severe disciplinary sanction in prison. Therefore, the procedure and conditions, including the violation for which it may be applied, must be clearly stated in law. Although it is not entirely forbidden under human rights, the use of solitary confinement as a punishment is discouraged, even if it is imposed for a very short time.


You may only be placed in solitary confinement for a serious or repeated breach of the internal rules of the prison.

Length and procedure

According to Estonian law, if you are convicted you can be sentenced to a maximum of 45 days in solitary confinement. In case you are underage the maximum period is 20 days. If you are arrested, but not convicted, you can be sentenced to a maximum of 30 days in solitary confinement. In case you are underage the maximum period is 15 days.

The length of your placement in solitary confinement cannot be automatically prolonged. An additional term of solitary confinement can only be imposed after:

  1. you have committed another serious violation of the prison rules; and
  2. an additional proper disciplinary process has been undertaken regarding that violation.

The procedure for imposing solitary confinement must be followed very strictly. Read more about disciplinary proceedings.


As solitary confinement may cause additional physical and mental distress, the monitoring of your condition, including your physical and mental health, must be more diligent. Medical officers of prisons are required to supervise the state of prisoners' health on a constant basis, treat them in prison to the extent possible and, if necessary, refer them to treatment at relevant providers of specialised medical care, and perform other functions assigned to medical officers.

It should be pointed out that only one disciplinary penalty may be imposed for the commission of one and the same disciplinary offence. It is prohibited to impose collective disciplinary penalties.

According to Estonian law, prisons shall provide separate premises fitted out for women prisoners who are pregnant and organise care for children. A mother and her child of up three years of age (inclusive) have to be allowed to live together at the request of the mother if the guardianship authority grants consent. The prison service shall ensure that the ties of a mother with her child over three years of age are sustained unless this disturbs the normal raising of the child or has a negative influence on the child. 

Restrictions and conditions in solitary confinement

Your communication with friends and family may be restricted while you are in solitary confinement. You are not allowed to receive short-term or long-term visits during the solitary confinement. However, you must be allowed to contact your advocate and state institutions. You have an unrestricted right to receive visits from your criminal defence counsel, representative who is an advocate, minister of religion and a consular officer of your country of nationality, and a notary for performance of a notarial act. Visits shall be uninterrupted and within sight but not within hearing distance from prison service officers.

You can have scripture, necessary legislation for protecting your rights (in particular The Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, Internal Rules of Prison, Imprisonment Act and internal rules of that specific prison), wedding ring, religious symbols, reasonable amount of study or religious literature, writing paper, writing instruments, letter marks, envelopes, judgements and rulings about you, indictments, replys to your letters, one phone card, soap, comb, toothpaste, toothbrush, towel, toilet paper and sanitary napkins (for women). The internal rules of the specific prison might be stricter, therefore you should look in particular the exceptions and specifications from there. 

The general rules relating to physical conditions in the the cell, hygiene requirements and food must be also be observed in solitary confinement. Read more about conditions.

What human rights violation may there be?

Right to a fair trial

Your placement in solitary confinement is comparable, in its seriousness, to a deprivation of liberty. Therefore, you are entitled to the guarantee of a right to a fair trial in disciplinary proceedings involving solitary confinement. Depending on the nature of the violation, a failure to observe the procedure for applying solitary confinement may lead to a violation of your right to a fair trial. 

example If you are placed in solitary confinement for 15 days without an opportunity to defend yourself and present your arguments, your right to a fair trial will be violated.

Private and family life

Undue placement in solitary confinement can also violate your right to a private and family life. 

example If you have been prevented you from meeting your family members or writing to your friends as a result of unlawful placement in solitary confinement, it may violate your right to family or private life. 

Prohibition against inhumane or degrading treatment

If placement in solitary confinement has caused you severe mental or physical suffering, it may lead to a violation of your right not to be treated in an inhumane or degrading way. However, for it to be considered inhuman or degrading treatment or even torture, the effect of the solitary confinement on your physical and mental condition has to be sufficiently severe. Read more about how to evaluate whether your rights have been violated. 


Last updated 29/04/2019