Detention issue

Solitary confinement

FRA research findings

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Legal instruments & key provisions

Legal instrument Key provision
Federal Prison Act (Strafvollzugsgesetz)Solitary confinement is only admissible if necessary to avert threats inherent in the prisoner’s person, which could mean the risk of jailbreak, violence against her/himself, violence against other persons or things or suicidal tendencies. Besides solitary confinement as special security measure (besondere Sicherungsmaßnahme), the isolation of prisoners can also be ordered to enforce discipline: so-called Arrest. The maximum duration is four weeks.


Year Recommendation Report
2015 The NPM noted, that in order to mitigate the negative consequences of solitary confinement on the mental and physical health of the person concerned, sufficient opportunity for appropriate human contact (e.g. extended visiting times) and to engage in purposeful activity is to be provided. Those placed in solitary confinement are also to be regularly visited by a psychiatrist/psychologist. These meetings should be conducted in an appropriate and confidential environment. Report details
2017The NPM reported that the arrest cell (Arrestraum) in the prison of Traunstein (Bavaria) had no windows and was located in the cellar. Moreover, people under arrest have only access to the Bible or the Quran, if they want to read. Therefore, the NPM claimed that arrest in Traunstein prison violated human dignity. About the special security ward (Sicherungstation) at the Tegel prison in Berlin the NPM reported that inmates could neither work nor were leisure activities available although solitary confinement was ordered sometimes for a period of several months. Report details
2019The NPM report warns that monitoring prisoners while they are using the toilet represents a considerable interference with their rights. Some prisons found appropriate solutions for this problem. For example, the toilet area in a specially secured cell at Frankfurt Prison is roughly pixelated so that the prisoners' movements and silhouette can still be made out despite the pixelation. This protects the privacy of those affected and, at the same time, provides sufficient visibility to enable a timely intervention if there is a risk of self-harm. CCTV cameras must be fitted in such a way that the toilet area is either not visible on the monitor at all or, alternatively, is taped over or only shown in the form of pixelated images. If deemed necessary in carefully considered individual cases, it may be possible to permit unrestricted monitoring of prisoners held in specially secured cells due to an acute danger of self-harm or suicide. The reasons for such a decision must be clearly documented and only persons of the same sex may carry out the monitoring. Report details