Student Solitary Confinement – email template for staff/ parents


Is [NAME OF SCHOOL/ COLLEGE/ UNIVERSITY] seriously imposing solitary confinement on innocent students for fifteen days? And disciplining students who do not comply or handing them over to the authorities? Solitary confinement is a form of torture and we can expect rising rates of depression, mental illness, self-harm and suicide to follow. That’s not a good look for a [school/ college/ university] proud to be [a Stonewall Diversity champion and] Positive about Disabled People. No matter how economically convenient (until outraged parents take legal action for harms caused) torture is not a solution!

According to Juan Mendez, the former United Nations special rapporteur on torture, the imposition of solitary confinement “of any duration, on persons with mental disabilities is cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.” He has called on governments to abolish it for prisoners with psychosocial or cognitive disabilities.

He has also said that “the longer the duration of solitary confinement or the greater the uncertainty regarding the length of time, the greater the risk of serious and irreparable harm to the inmate that may constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment or even torture.”

Under Scots Law, staff who enforce these measures may also be legally liable – judged to be acting “on a frolic of their own” as the antiquated legal phrase puts it – as “only following orders” went out as an excuse in 1948 at the Nuremberg Trials. So the [school/ college/ university] is also setting up staff for legal liability. That’s hardly Dignity At Work!

  • There is no provision in law for the imposition of solitary confinement (of any duration) on students nor for threatening staff with disciplinary action if they do not enforce it.
  • There is no provision in law for the mandatory download and use of any technology by individual members of the public.
  • Self-isolation must be, and must be seen to be, voluntary.

None of us is above the law. I make no judgement on the good intentions of those who are currently mandating the illegal imposition of solitary confinement. No doubt they passed lockdown in a spacious house with a lovely garden. Not in a dorm room smaller than a jail cell.

Permit me to say that the feelings of these people are not my chief concern at the moment. My priority is the physical and mental wellbeing of our [students/ children] and of my fellow [staff/ parents] – as well as the legal liability which the [school/ college/ university] as a corporate body and individual staff members are now open to because of this solitary confinement regime.

A better tack to take (and one more likely to avoid students ripping up residences to form barricades while singing La Marseillaise) might be to invite the students to self-isolate, to support them (and staff) – and to supply them with limes! 

Yours sincerely,

…………………………………………. [ YOUR NAME]

White hands of a youth clutch black prison bars

Thanks to George Hodan for releasing his image Children’s Hands into the Public Domain.