Freedom! Liberty! Justice for all! We are America. We are the greatest country on Earth. Anyone that is born here is lucky to be an American, because it can get no better than this. We encourage voting and participating in the political system. And maybe we’ve done unsavory things in Guantanamo, but they’re terrorists. We would never violate the human rights of our own people.
Except we do. Every single day.
Mass incarceration, US-style, is a violation of basic human rights.According to Human Rights Watch, “Prisoners and detainees in many local, state and federal facilities, including those run by private contractors, confront conditions that are abusive, degrading and dangerous. Soaring prison populations due to harsh sentencing laws—which legislators have been reluctant to change—and immigrant detention policies coupled with tight budgets have left governments unwilling to make the investments in staff and resources necessary to ensure safe and humane conditions of confinement. Such failures violate the human rights of all persons deprived of their liberty to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
To paraphrase the above video, being hard on CRIME is not the same as being hard on CRIMINALS. Criminals are humans. Some are evil, yes. Some make bad decisions. And some just had the unfortunate disadvantage of being a minority.
And here are some human rights those minorities (and others in incarceration) can expect to have violated (as defined by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights):
The Right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being (Article 25) – Solitary confinement, a widely-used penitentiary punishment, can have severe psychological effects, even exacerbating those with previous mental illness.
The Right to equal protection of the law (Article 7): Unless you’re a black male.
The Right to take part in the government of his country (Article 21): This is the most direct reflection of Jim Crow laws. Criminals can’t vote, and criminals are again overwhelmingly minority races. The US has disenfranchised 13% of black men with this method.
The Right to life, liberty, and security of person (Article 3): The US is one of the top 5 countries for death penalty sentences. Most of the Western world sees the death penalty as inhumane, discriminatory, and a failure as a deterrent for crime. And again, who bears the brunt of this brutal policy? Minorities.
This video is a little long, but John Oliver nails the problem with prison in the United States. There is a human rights crisis here, in the Land of the Free. And it disproportionately falls on young, black men.