salon.com: Recently, Human Rights Watch released its World Report evaluating each country’s human rights practices around the globe. The United States fared poorly in safeguarding the rights of its own population, with those hit hardest by abuse typically the most vulnerable in the society, including racial and ethnic groups, minorities, the poor, immigrants, prisoners and the elderly. Here are 10 key areas identified by HRW where the United States fell short in upholding and preserving human rights.
1. Harsh sentencing. The United States has the world’s largest incarcerated population in the world with 760 inmates per 100,000 residents and an estimated 2.2 million people behind bars. Our country holds about five percent of the world’s population, yet houses around 25 percentof its prisoners. Mass incarceration in the United States is the result of decades of punitive sentencing regimes, including life-without-parole sentences, high mandatory minimum sentences and three-strikes laws, with nearly half of current federal inmates serving time for drug-related crimes.
While Attorney General Eric Holder has urged for changes in federal sentencing guidelines to reserve the harshest penalties for the most serious drug traffickers, low-level and nonviolent drug offenders still remain subject to disproportionately long sentences and are often left with no choice but to accept plea bargains from prosecutors or face arbitrarily fixed minimum sentences.
While the number of death sentences in the United States per year has fallen, 32 states still impose the death penalty, despite the fact that its usage has been found to be contrary to international law. Last year alone, 42 people were executed and 10 people have been executed as of March this year.