End Prisoner Isolation

Public statement launched on International Human Rights Day, Friday 10 December, 2010

Add your support

Jails around the world hold prisoners who have endured years of solitary confinement or other forms of isolation. The enforced long-term isolation of any person is a cruel and inhuman violation of their inalienable rights and needs as members of the human family. The long-term isolation of prisoners has to stop.

Scientific evidence shows that prisoners held in long-term isolation commonly suffer severe damage to their mental health. It should be self-evident that whether a prisoner manifests such damage or not, the suffering that he or she endures is torturous, cruel and inhuman. Few of us can properly imagine what such a prisoner goes through.

In the USA hundreds of prisoners are held in extreme isolation in the "supermax" prison known as Administrative Maximum, Florence, Colorado ("ADX Florence") - a federal prison. Tens of thousands more prisoners are held in extreme isolation in "supermax" State prisons and in special units at other facilities within the Federal and State prison systems. Many of these prisoners have been held in isolation for years; some have suffered isolation for decades.

Isolation in US prisons commonly involves solitary confinement with minimal human contact of any kind, even with prison staff. Prisoners are typically held in their cells for 23 hours a day. Exercise is typically taken in an isolated space outside the cell. Isolation can also mean the confinement of two prisoners in a single isolation cell - a situation potentially even worse than solitary confinement.

Prisoners in other jurisdictions around the world also suffer prolonged solitary confinement. A report published in October 2008 by the UN's Special Rapporteur on Torture named China, Denmark, Georgia, Indonesia, Jordan, Mongolia, Nigeria, Paraguay as well as the United States as giving cause for concern. In the same year, the UN Committee Against Torture expressed concern over prolonged isolation in "supermax" facilities in Australia. In 2009 the Committee expressed concern over the use of solitary confinement in Israeli prisons.

We believe that prolonged, enforced isolation is unjustifiable in any circumstances. It is unjustifiable whether it is imposed as a punishment, or to coerce information or a change of behaviour from the prisoner, or for any other purpose. It is unjustifiable whether it is imposed before trial or after conviction. It is unjustifiable whether of not it is imposed through legal process.

Long-term isolation is the antithesis of norms that have come to be accepted in much of Europe and in many other parts of the world. The drift away from these norms must be resisted.

Where, exceptionally, a prisoner cannot safely or beneficially be afforded the kinds of social interaction normal within humanely-run prisons, exceptional and effective steps must be taken to provide the prisoner with human contact that is clearly adequate in the interests of his or her human and psychological well-being.

We believe that 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" and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that "no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

We call upon the countries of the world to enact legislation that prohibits long-term prisoner isolation, and prohibits the transfer of prisoners to countries where they would be at risk of such treatment.

Dungeons should not be tolerated in the 21st century.

Signed by:

All in a personal capacity

1 August 2014 09:09 GMT

Clive Stafford-Smith (lawyer and Director of Reprieve), Frances Webber (barrister, London, UK), Moazzam Begg (former Guantanamo prisoner, UK), Noam Chomsky (Institute Professor & Emeritus Professor of Linguistics, MIT, USA), Alice Walker (author, USA), Lord Anthony Gifford QC (barrister, Jamaica and UK), Michael Mansfield QC (barrister, UK), Daniel Machover (Chair of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights), Frank Barat (Coordinator, Russell Tribunal on Palestine), Bill Bowring (barrister and Professor of Law, Birkbeck, University of London, UK), Aamer Anwar (Criminal Defence Lawyer, Glasgow, UK), David Brown (Emeritus Professor, University of NSW, Sydney Australia), Terry Waite CBE (former Beirut hostage, UK), Omar Deghayes (former Guantanamo prisoner, UK), Paddy Hill (Birmingham 6, UK), Gerry Conlon (Guildford 4), Ronnie Kasrils (writer, activist and former government minister, South Africa), Mairead Corrigan Maguire (Nobel Peace laureate 1976, Northern Ireland), Cynthia McKinney (former member of the US Congress and 2008 presidential candidate, Green Party, USA), John McManus (Miscarriages of Justice Organisation Scotland, UK), Richard Haley (Scotand Against Criminalising Communities, UK), Julia Davidson (Scotand Against Criminalising Communities, UK), Desmond Fernandes (Genocide and prisoner isolation scholar, London, UK ), Estella Schmid (Peace in Kurdistan Campaign, UK), Saleh Mamon (Campaign Against Criminalising Communities, UK), Les Levidow (Campaign Against Criminalising Communities, UK), Maryam Hassan (Justice for Aafia Coalition), Pushkar Raj (General Secretary, People's Union for Civil Liberties, India), Sharon Shalev (SolitaryConfinement.org), Jeffrey Ian Ross (Associate Professor, University of Baltimore, USA), Hans Toch (Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University at Albany, State University of NY, USA), Adnan Siddiqui (a Director of CagePrisoners, UK), Arzu Merali (Islamic Human Rights Commission, UK), Thomas Schmidt (lawyer, Germany, Secretary General of the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights), Theo van Boven (Netherlands, former United Nations Special Rapporteur against Torture), Roland Weyl (lawyer, France, First Vice President of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers), Herman Wallace (Angola 3, USA), Robert King (Angola 3, USA), Albert Woodfox (Angola 3, USA), Marina Drummer Community Futures Collective, USA), Chase Madar (lawyer, USA), Mumia Abu Jamal (Death Row, USA), Jonathan Bloch (Councillor, Liberal Democrat, for Muswell Hill Ward, Haringey Council, London, UK), Kaila McCulloch (International Officer, UNISON Shetland Branch, UK), Paul Mackney (Former General Secretary, University and College Union, UK), Michael T Darwyne (barrister [employed], Inner Temple, UK), Dr R. Eric Swanepoel (writer, UK), Andy Worthington (journalist, UK), Tam Dean Burn (cultural worker, Scotland, UK), Richard Walthew (UK), Ben Hayes (Statewatch), Pat Bryden (UK), R. Hugh Drummond (Edinburgh, UK), Alastair Lings (UK), Sheena Smith (UK), Deirdre O'Reilly (UK), Frances Thorp (UK), Noora Elatar (UK), Lance Goodey (UK), George Brufton (musician, UK), Ann Alexander (Scotland Against Criminalising Communities, UK), Wendy Khadijah (Wife of isolated prisoner, UK), Khateeba Chechi (UK), Shazia Malik (UK), Christine McCabe (Amnesty International member, UK), Kashif Amin (UK), Fiona Graham (UK), Jim Bollan (Councillor, Scottish Socialist Party, for Leven ward, West Dunbartonshire Council, UK), Hala George (UK), Madeleine Swords (UK), Khadija E. Fouad (Graduate Student in Education, Indiana University, USA), Anealla Safdar (UK), Rubia Dar (UK), Nadeem Ashraf (the Muslim Ummah, UK), Lee Wood (Committee to Abolish Prison Slavery, USA), Jim Grozier (UK), Zubair Farooq (UK), Bridget Dunne (July 7th Truth Campaign, UK), Liz Williams (Australia), Yakoub Islam (UK), David Pickering (UK), Mary Robbs (UK), Matthew Bygrave (UK), Christina Goodwin (UK), F. Yahya (UK), Zakia Akhteruzzaman (UK), Kinana Saffour (UK), Hamja Ahsan (Free Talha Ahsan Campaign, UK), Yusuf Mahmood (UK), Nicki Jameson (Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!, UK), Nayar Hussain (UK), Ziad Mannan (UK), Shahrina Ahmed , Samia Khan (USA), Paul Rolfe (UK), Dr. Jim Taggart (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Council member, UK), Shahrina Mondal (UK), Jack Hazelgrove (UK), Patricia Spencer-Canizares (UK), Hayley Gullen (UK), Abu Muhammad (UK), Akbar Shah Zab Noboa (UK), Umar Abdullah (Helptheprisoners.org, UK), Dominic Mulgrew (Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!, Glasgow, UK), H. Lee Gershuny (UK), Dr Faisal Awan (Ilm Stoke, UK), Mohammad Khan (UK), Adrian Cousins (Unite rep, UK), Farzhana B. Parool (UK), Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner (France), G McPhail (UK), Afsana Akthet (UK), Frances Corr (UK), Bob Philip (Christian Peacemaker Teams, UK), Dai Owen (Chester Stop the War Coalition, UK), Liz Elkind (UK), Dr Zabeen Patel (UK), Akhter Khan (UK), Jabeen Ul-Haq (UK), Phil Steele (Bangor & Ynys Môn Peace & Justice, UK), Gen Williams (UK), Nazia Khanam (UK), Zareen Islam (UK), Pauline Bradley (UK), Basharat Malik (UK), Fraz Farhat (UK), Fatima Y (Canada), Jeni Harris (UK), Dr Faisal Shahabuddin (UK), Alan Munday (UK), Larry Johnston (UK), Umm Talha (UK), Gail Shaw MD (International Committee to Free the Angola 3, USA), Lucinda Aberdeen (Australia), Simon DeveySmith (France), Umm Muwahhid (UK), Kimberly Loh (UK), Dr Ammar Waraich (UK), Dave Palmer (UK), Helen Searle (UK), Pavlina Kapickova (UK), Norman Gilfillan (UK), Clara Shapiro(USA), Dr Ahmed Lawal (UK), Jean Crocker (University and College Union, UK), Ralph Famularo (Japan), Lindsay Turner (UK), Malaika (UK), Dave Palmer (UK), Lucy Davies (UK), Susan Nash (USA), Mrs. R. Ghayur (Pakistan), Skystar Indriel (USA), Susan Hall (USA), Douglas Mauck (USA), Tammy Smith (USA), Serena Zanzu (UK), Margaret Loyon (France), Susan McNamara, M.D. (USA), Kathy Womack (USA), Dennis Robertson (USA), Malcolm Bush (UK), Partho Sen-Gupta (UK), Debra J Cozine (USA), Umm Hafs (UK), Catherine Lambert (UK), Umm Anas (UK), Margaret Phillips (USA), Samina Hussain (Solicitor, Human Rights Campaigner, UK), Jim Farley (UK), Lucas Levin (Portland Books to Prisoners, USA), Joseph van der Naald (Portland State Books to Prisoners, USA), Alex Fish (Portland Books to Prisoners, USA), Katherine Cantrell (Psychology Major, UC Berkeley, USA), Lucas Levin (Portland Books to Prisoners, USA), Michael House (Garden Court Chambers, UK), John Petrie (UK), Iram Javed (UK), Michael Bisgaard Olesen (Denmark), Thorbjørn Mosekjær Iversen (Denmark), John Porter (UK), Mary Inglis (UK), Ali Naseem Bajwa QC (UK), Joey van der Naald (Portland Books to Prisoners, USA), Rameen Haider (UK), Margaret Phillips (USA), Nida Kirmani (Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan), David Mery (UK), Luk Vervaet (Prisoners' Family & Friends Association, Egalité, Belgium), Alan J Munday (UK), Tasneem Ali (Muslim Women's Association of Edinburgh, UK), Victoria Brittain (UK), Saghir Hussain (Solicitor, HMA Solicitors, UK), David Norton Murray (UK), Kernan Willis (elementary school teacher, USA), Rosemary Forde (Australia), Anila Akram (UK), Lawrence Morton (Kirkcaldy SNP Branch, Scotland, UK), Khursheda Ismoilzoda (UK), Michael Ellman (ex-Chair, Solicitors Internat Human Rights; Officer of the Board, FIDH, UK), Alexandra Lort Phillips (UK), Jen Stout (UK), Suna Nash (PDX Books to Prisoners, USA), Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh (Co-founder, N.Ireland Civil Rights Assoc [1967], Ireland), Johnny Roberts (Human Rights Activist, Canada), Brenda Downes (Ireland), Zahid Ali (UK), Jock McDougall (UK), Dr Mounir Atassi (Free Syria Campaign in the UK), Dr Mujahid Islam (UK), Joyce Edmond-Smith (Secretary Brighton & Hove United Nations association, UK), Anita Cordoba (aseerun, Jordan), Janet Jamieson (UK), Anne Edmonds (Solidarity, UK), Saleyha Ahsan (No More Secrets, UK), Fahad Ansari (Solicitor, TRP Solicitors Ltd, UK), Nordine Saïdi (Porte Parole d'EGALITE, EGALITE, Belgium), Mohammad Shahid Majeed (East Kilbride Muslim Community), Judy Watson (Australia), Mohammad Quraishi (Bayyina Foundation, UK), F. Qureshi (UK), Nicola Triscott (UK), Dr. Sohail Qureshi (UK), Petra Davies (UK), Mary Hamer, M.D (UK), Curtis Mullins (African American Council, USA), Farhana (UK), Aaf Post, (Free Omar Khadr campaign, Netherlands), Josephine Hayden (Ireland), Katherine Howe (USA), Tom Hill (United Kingdom), Shana Schwartz (USA), Freddie Weyman (UK), Shasha Ali (New Zealand), Felicity Szesnat (UK), Tom Hill (UK), Sumer Alsatarwah (USA), Wendy O'Connor (USA), Judy Watson (Australia), Sophie Dodds (Paintings in Hospitals, UK), Qian Zheng Yi (Innocent in Prison Project International, USA), Tom Hill (UK), Sumer Alsatarwah (USA), Wendy O'Connor (USA), Michael Elsmere (Dancing Mountains Zen Sangha, UK), Anthony Wells (USA), Leo Eeg (Student, Norway), Fathimah N(Sri Lanka), Lisa Last (UK), Asma Adam (UK), Imogen McRoberts (UK), Eric Hulsens (Belgium), Maurice Frank (several Asperger groups in Scotland, UK), Amel (France), Johnny Roberts (Individual Human Rights Activist, Canada), David Mullen (Citizen, United Kingdom), Dette Mc Loughlin (swp, Ireland), Linda G. Richard (freedetainees.org, USA), Jack Smith (OCCUPY - Seattle, USA), Chris Phoenix (USA), Nekisha Slade (USA), Daniel Lentz (USA), David Hayward (USA), Jennifer Lutterbie (USA), Maja Bisgaard Olesen (USA), Crystal Torres (USA), Christopher Torres (USA), Brother Shafi Chowdhury (UK), Lee Dempsey (UK), Brady Coleman (NM Center on Law & Poverty, USA), Dr T S Sheriff (UK), Brian Mumford (USA), Quinn Maroney (Concordia Forensics, USA) Nathalie Alvernhe (France), Laurence Meylemans (France), Wynn M Chapman (France), Nathalie Alvernhe (France), Tina Gharavi (Newcastle University, Bridge + Tunnel Productions, UK), Sarangan Thillayampalam (Denmark), Dr. Sue Blackwell (UK), Jean Thakrar (UK), Jacob Manfield (UK), Patricia Taylor (Australia), K. Mullen (UK), Melody Wahl (Butte County Coalition of Reason, USA)

Add Your Support

Please add your support to the StopIsolation statement:

StopIsolation respects your privacy