There are certain groups of prisoners who must be held isolated from others. This is done to ensure the safety of those who are considered more vulnerable. Placement in these groups may depend on the characteristics of the person such as age, gender, sex or the personal circumstances of the person in question such as the crime they have committed, their religious beliefs, nationality, sentence execution regime etc.  

Groups that must be held separately

Latvian law lists those groups of prisoners who must be held isolated from each other at all times:

  • men and women
  • minors and adults
  • prisoners whose personal characteristics, behaviour and previous criminal experience may negatively affect other inmates
  • persons arrested on remand and convicted prisoners
  • short-term prisoners (up to 3 months) and long-term prisoners

In exceptional circumstances, if you are moved to the prison hospital you may meet other groups of prisoners. 

Other reasons for isolation

There may be situations when you are in danger of harassment or ill-treatment because of your personal circumstances. In those situations, the prison administration must react to any threats and, if necessary, transfer you to a different cell or prison. 

Examples of such reasons may be:

  • your nationality
  • your religion
  • the specific crime you have committed (especially sexual offences)
  • your connection/cooperation with prison staff or law enforcement

Duties of prison staff

If the prison administration is not aware of threats to your safety because of your personal circumstances, you should alert the prison staff immediately. However, if the danger to your safety is obvious or foreseeable, the prison administration must act to protect you even without your special request. 

important  The prison administration cannot isolate you from other prisoners just because you differ from others, unless there is a real need for such isolation. 

What human rights violation may there be?

Prohibition against inhumane or degrading treatment

If you are not isolated from other inmates who may pose a serious threat to your safety, and because of that you are exposed to violence, harassment or constant threats, it may lead to a violation of the prohibition against inhumane and degrading treatment. 

However, not every minor conflict with a cellmate will be considered a danger to your safety.

example If you have been placed in a cell with a person who swears a lot, most likely this will not violate your rights. However, if you experience verbal harassment and threats from your cellmates for several months, but the prison administration does not react to your complaints, it may result in a violation of your rights even if no actual physical violence has taken place. 

Read more about the duty to investigate and prevent such treatment.

Right to life

In the most serious situations, a failure to isolate someone from other inmates may lead to a loss of life.

Read more about how to evaluate whether the right to life has been violated. 

How to complain

If you believe that your rights have been violated, you should complain to the Latvian Prison administration. Read more about how to complain.

Human Rights Guide

A European platform for human rights education