Human Rights Watch, an international human and civil rights group, has issued the results of its investigation into prison conditions in the United States. Their investigation consisted of visits to more than 20 state and federal prisons and detention centers, prison litigation cases since 1984, and interviews with prisoners, lawyers, prison officials and prisoner relatives and advocates.
The report notes the increasing use of sensory deprivation by state and federal prisons in the U.S. and the resulting physical and mental harm such measures inflict on their victims. It notes that such control units violate international standards on the treatment of prisoners (i.e., corporal punishment, lockdown indoors, collective punishment, etc.). It notes the large number of Americans, more than one million, are affected by these conditions and that the U.S. imprisons a greater percentage of its citizens than any other country in the world.
The report lists a series of recommendations for prison officials to implement in order to meet minimal human rights standards in the prisons they control.
The report lists the findings and conclusions of the investigation into specific areas such as health, disciplinary measures, physical conditions, safety, death row conditions, contact with the outside, etc. It notes that conditions in INS Immigration detention facilities are far worse and more oppressive than those in many maximum security prisons despite the fact that those housed in INS facilities are not accused nor convicted of any illegal acts. The harshness is intended to dissuade refugees from pursuing their asylum and immigration claims in the U.S. The report also includes a chapter on prison litigation in the U.S. The report shows that while the U.S. claims to be a staunch defender of human rights, in many cases its prisons are more oppressive than those in even third world countries.
Copies of the report are available from: Human Rights Watch, 485 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017.
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