U.S. Admits Human Rights Abuses, ACLU Says They Forgot a Few

Aug 24, 2010
Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.
Prison overcrowding and death in detention centers are huge problems in America. (John Kolesidis/Reuters)

Discrimination in America?

As much as its politicians and pundits like to talk about unparalleled civil liberties and personal freedoms, the human rights track record of the United States is not exactly squeaky clean.

In fact, the Obama administration is recognizing U.S. violations in the first-ever human rights report to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The ACLU applauds the admissions, but says the report doesn't include important acts of discrimination that need considerable improvement.

According the Associated Press, the U.S. State Department report cites African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, South Asians, Native Americans and the gay and lesbian populations as targets of discrimination that results in "high unemployment rates, hate crime, poverty, poor housing, lack of access to health care and discriminatory hiring practices."

What the report left out, according to the ACLU, includes inhumane prison conditions and death and abuse in immigration detention centers.

Since 2003, more than 100 people have died in detention. In 2009, the immigration detention system held 380,000 people.

Raymond was one of these people.

Seeking political asylum from Cuba, he built a life in the United States. Today he is being held in detention indefinitely.

According to Detention Watch Network, Raymond claimed the guards have been abusive and he said, “[My] Human Rights have been violated and [I] am very sad, depressed and anxious. [I] consider my dignity was unjustly offended."

The prison system in America is not only overcrowded, but according to the ACLU, the conditions are often inhumane. Louisiana's St. Tammany Parish jail could be termed atrocious.

Last month, the ACLU demanded that the jail stop keeping prisoners it deemed suicidal in "squirrel cages."

According to the ACLU, St. Tammany Parish prisoners were unable to sit or lay down in the 3' x 3' cages, and were held for days stripped half naked without a toilet or bed.

On August 24, thanks to the ACLU's efforts, the St. Tammany sheriff issued new policies for prisoners thought to be suicidal.

According to the ACLU of Louisiana:

Instead of the cages, suicidal prisoners will now be housed in a holding cell monitored by guards, where prisoners will have access to bathrooms, potable water, and beds... The cages will be used only as a last resort in emergency situations.

In a response to the State Department's report to the U.N., Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU's human rights program, told the AP:

It is time for the U.S. to match its human rights rhetoric with concrete domestic policies and actions and create a human rights culture and infrastructure that promote American values of equality and justice for all.

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