To: President Obama

9 December 2011

Solitary Confinement and Isolation of Prisoners
International Human Rights Day 2011

Dear President Obama,

I am writing on behalf of Scottish-based human rights group Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) to draw your attention to an international statement on prisoner isolation supported by SACC and a range of other organisations and individuals.

A copy of the statement and the names of its supporters is included with this letter and is available online at

Believing prisoner isolation to be one of the major issues still to be adequately addressed in international human rights practice, we have chosen the eve of International Human Rights Day 2011 to raise this matter with the governments of 6 key countries – The USA, the UK, France, Germany, Australia and Turkey.

Supporters of the statement include intellectuals of international standing, legal practitioners, human rights experts, experts on penal policy, current and former prisoners and a small cross-section of ordinary people from around the world. Their collective knowledge of prisoner isolation is formidable, and it is for this reason that I commend the statement to your attention and ask you to respond by letting me know your Administration’s views and intentions on this matter.

I also draw your attention to the following related developments, which I believe further emphasise that progress on this issue is long overdue:

  • The proposal by the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on Torture, presented to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) of the UN General Assembly on 18 October 2011, for a worldwide ban on the practice of prolonged solitary confinement;
  • The recommendation in “Confronting Confinement: A Report of the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s prisons” (2006) calling for an end to “conditions of isolation”;
  • The recent mass hunger strike of prisoners in California state prisons, protesting at a variety of abuses, including isolation, and calling for the recommendations in “Confronting Confinement” to be implemented;
  • The concerns expressed by the Special Rapporteur on Torture over the isolation of Bradley Manning;

In the light of these developments, and out of respect for all the supporters of the StopIsolation statement, I hope you will:

  1. Let me know your views on the general principles set out in paragraphs 1 to 8 of the statement;
  2. Let me know whether you agree with paragraph 9 of the statement ( “enforced long-term isolation in all circumstances breaches Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states ‘no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’ …”);
  3. Let me know whether your Administration will seek to introduce “legislation that prohibits long-term prisoner isolation, and prohibits the transfer of prisoners to countries where they would be at risk of such treatment,” as proposed in paragraph 10 of the statement;
  4. Let me know of any other steps your Administration is taking or intends to take in order to eliminate or reduce the incidence of long-term prisoner isolation in the US and around the world.
  5. Yours respectfully

    Response from the US Government

    No response has been received to date (October 2012)

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