Full Text of Human Rights Record of United States in 2007

Updated: 2008-03-13 13:56

II. On Human Rights Violations by Law Enforcement and Judicial Departments

The abuse of their power by law enforcement and judicial departments in the United States has seriously violated the freedom and rights of its citizens.

Cases in which US law enforcement authorities allegedly violated victims' civil rights increased by 25 percent from fiscal year 2001 to 2007 over the previous seven years, according to statistics from US Department of Justice (Police Brutality Casesup 25%; Union Worried Over Dip in Hiring Standards, USA Today, December 18, 2007). The national average among large police departments for excessive-force complaints was 9.5 per 100 full-time officers (The New York Times, November 14, 2007). But the majority of law enforcement officers accused of brutality were not prosecuted in the end. From May 2001 to June 2006, 2,451 police officers in Chicago received four to 10 complaints each, 662 of them received more than 10 complaints each, but only 22 were punished. Furthermore, there were officers who had amassed more than 50 abuse complaints but were never disciplined in any fashion (The Chicago Police Department's Broken System, University of Chicago, www.law.chicago.edu). On August 17, 2006, a 52-year-old Chicago woman named Dolores Robare was nearly struck by a speeding police car when she was crossing the road. The officer stopped and asked her to produce her identification. She was brutally beaten by the police when she asked them why it was taking so long (The Chicago Tribune, May 1, 2007). On December 15,2006, four businessmen were beaten by six off-duty officers at a bar for no apparent reasons (The Chicago Tribune, June 9, 2007). On August 3, 42-year-old African American Geffrey Johnson was killed at his home by the police using a taser gun. On August 6, 18-year-old black youth Aaron Harrison was shot in the back and killed by police pursuing him (The Chicago Tribune, August 9, 2007). On May 1 when Latino immigrants were campaigning for the rights of illegal immigrants at MacArthur Park in downtown Los Angeles, police officers abused their power by clubbing demonstrators and journalists and shooting them with rubber bullets (The Los Angeles Times, October 9, 2007). On November 12, five police officers fired 20 bullets at 18-year-old youth Khiel Coppin, eight hitting him, in front of his mother's house, after mistaking a comb he was brandishing as a gun (The China Press, New York, November 19, 2007). According to a report released by the US Department of Justice in October 2007, 47 states and the District of Columbia reported 2,002 arrest-related deaths between 2003 and 2005. Among these, 1,095, or 55 percent, were killed by gunfire of state or local police (Death in Custody Statistical Tables, US Department of Justice, www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs).

The United States of America is the world's largest prison and has the highest inmates/population ratio in the world. A December 5, 2007 report by EFE news agency quoted statistics of US Department of Justice as saying that the number of inmates in US prisons has increased by 500 percent over the last 30 years. By the end of 2006, there were 2.26 million inmates in US prisons, up 2.8 percent from a year ago. The number is the highest over the last six years. The US population only accounted for 5 percent of the world total, but its inmates made up 25 percent of the world total. There were 751 inmates in every 100,000 US citizens, far higher than the rates in other Western countries (EFE news agency, December 5, 2007). Among the inmates, 96 percent were serving sentences of more than one year, which equaled about one in every 200 US citizens serving a sentence of more than a year (Prisoners In 2006, US Department of Justice, www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs). Since the September 11 attacks, reincarceration rate has been rising in the United States. According to statistics, about two thirds of the inmates would commit a second crime within three years after releasing. Two out of three inmates would be caught again after their release and 40 percent would be put behind bars again.

Abusing the inmates is commonplace in US prisons. According to a report released by US Department of Justice in December 2007, an estimated 60,500 inmates, or 4.5 percent of State and Federal inmates, experienced one or more incidents of sexual victimization, 2.9 percent of the inmates reported an incident involving prison staff, 0.5 percent said they had been sexually victimized by both other inmates and staff, 0.8 percent of the inmates were injured as a result of sexual victimization (Sexual Victimization in State and Federal Prisons Reported by Inmates, US Department of Justice, www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs). The US government acknowledged in a January 16, 2007 report that suspected illegal immigrants were mistreated in five prisons, breaching the principle of humane custody (The Washington Post, January 17, 2007). The Washington Post reported on December 17, 2007 that juvenile inmates in a West Texas youth prison were sexually assaulted or beaten and denied medical care. Those who reported the crime got revenged upon and the situation remained unimproved months after the scandal was brought to light. (Dad Dismissed Prison Reform, The Washington Times, December 17, 2007).In January 2008, seven prisoners in Georgia State filed a class-action lawsuit accusing guards and other corrections officers of abusing and torturing them between October 2005 and August 2007, including beating them with batons and special black leather "beating gloves" and ramming inmates' heads against the wall. Media reports said some 40 inmates in other Georgia prisons complained of similar cases, in which guards strapped nude inmates to iron beds or iron chairs, denying them of food, water or access to bathroom for as long as 48 hours, and causing the death of two inmates (International Herald Tribune, January 8, 2008). Guards in American prisons regularly use taser guns. According to a 2007 report from Amnesty International, 230 Americans have died from taser guns since 2001. In July 2006, a prison in Garfield County, Colorado was accused of regularly using taser guns or pepper sprayers on inmates, and then tying them to chairs in awkward positions for hours. In August, prison guards in Arapahoe County of Colorado strapped inmate Raul Gallegos-Reyes to a restraint chair for yelling and knocking on his cell door. He died after being repeatedly stunned with a taser gun.

US prisoners often die from HIV/AIDS infection or inadequate medical service. A report released by the US Department of Justice in September 2007 said there were 22,480 state and federal inmates who were HIV infected or had confirmed AIDS at yearend 2005, 5,620 inmates had confirmed AIDS. During 2005 an estimated 176 state and 27 federal inmates died from AIDS-related causes (HIV in prisons 2005, US Department of Justice, www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs). According to a report by the Los Angeles Times on September 20, 2007, 426 death cases took place in California prisons in 2006 due to belated treatment. Among them, 18 deaths were found to be "preventable" and an additional 48 were found to be "possibly preventable". On April 14, 2007, 41-year-old diabetic prisoner Rodolfo Ramos died after being left alone and covered in his own feces for a week. Prison officials failed to get medical treatment for him despite knowing of his condition (The Associated Press, April 27, 2007).

The justice of US judicial system was increasingly put in question. Survey finds that since the first DNA exoneration in 1989, there have been 209 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States. The average length of time served by exonerees is 12 years. The average age of exonerees at the time of their wrongful convictions was 26, and 15 of the 209 people exonerated through DNA served time on death row (Facts on Post-Conviction DNA Exonerations, Innocence Project, www.innocenceproject.com). The Associated Press reported on January 3, 2008 that Charles Chatman of Texas was proved innocent by DNA evidence after spending 26 years in prison. In 1981, he was sentenced to 99 years in prison after convicted of committing serious sexual assaults. He was the 15th inmate exonerated by DNA evidence in Dalas since 2001 (Texas Man Exonerated by DNA After 26 Years, the Associated Press, January 3, 2008).

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