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U.S. REPORT UNDER THE INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON 
CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS
JULY 1994

Article 11 - Freedom from Imprisonment for Breach 
of Contractual Obligation 

In the United States, imprisonment is never a 
sanction for the inability to fulfill a private 
contractual obligation.  Contract law generally 
provides remedies for the promisee rather than 
punishment for the promisor.  Breach of contract is 
a civil matter and imprisonment is never a civil 
remedy.  The historical remedies for failure to 
fulfill a contractual obligation include assessment 
of damages to be paid by the nonfulfilling party to 
compensate the other party to the contract for his 
losses.  Where damages cannot remedy the situation, 
the court can enter an order directing the party to 
specifically perform.  The purpose of remedies in 
contract law is to correct the problem or ameliorate 
the adverse consequences, not to punish the 
nonperforming party.
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