Geneva Council, joins the United Nations experts in bringing attention to the deeply troubling findings of systemic racism and rights abuses within the U.S. criminal justice system.
In a recent report released by the United Nations, it has been unequivocally stated that Black individuals in the United States face pervasive “systemic racism and racial discrimination by law enforcement officials.” This comprehensive investigation was initiated in 2021 in the wake of widespread protests following the tragic police killing of George Floyd. The report sheds light on disturbing disparities and rights violations faced by Black prisoners.
Key Findings of the U.N. Human Rights Council Report:
- Inhumane Treatment: Prisoners, primarily Black, have been subjected to the inhumane practice of giving birth while shackled and then forcibly separated from their newborns shortly after delivery, a shocking violation of human dignity.
- Disproportionate Rights Violations: The report underscores the disproportionately harsh treatment faced by Black prisoners, as evidenced by extensive research, including visits to five detention centers, meetings with officials nationwide, and direct testimonies from over 130 individuals.
Call for a Human Rights-Based Approach:
Geneva Council echoes the U.N. Human Rights Council’s call for a fundamental shift toward a “human rights-based approach” to address the profound lack of trust that people of African descent have in law enforcement and the criminal justice systems. This lack of trust is rooted in historical and ongoing police violence and the sense of systemic oppression and impunity.
No Response from U.S. Mission to the United Nations and the Department of Justice:
Surprisingly, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and the Department of Justice have not responded to the report’s findings, which encompass issues at the federal, state, and local levels. In contrast, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons stated their commitment to the safety and security of all incarcerated individuals.
A Disturbing Reality in U.S. Prisons:
The report paints a distressing picture of Black prison populations, some of whom are subjected to forced labor, including tasks reminiscent of slavery-era practices, such as cotton picking. For instance, the Louisiana State Penitentiary’s situation echoes the historical exploitation of Black labor. However, the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections declined to comment on these characterizations.
Addressing Long-Standing Issues:
Geneva Council emphasizes the urgent need to address the long-standing issues outlined in the report. Drug laws and policies that have persisted for over five decades have played a significant role in the disproportionate harm faced by Africans and people of African descent in interactions with law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Concerns raised by rights groups and criminal justice reform advocates are highlighted, including the nation’s high per capita imprisonment rate, overrepresentation of Black prisoners, varying doctrines on police use of force, frequent police killings, extensive law enforcement presence in schools, substandard prison conditions, the widespread use of solitary confinement, and the disenfranchisement of prisoners.
The expert panel responsible for compiling the report, including individuals such as Tracie L. Keesee, co-founder and president of the Center For Policing Equity, Juan E. Méndez, an Argentine human rights lawyer and former commissioner of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and Yvonne Mokgoro, a former justice on South Africa’s constitutional court, has put forth recommendations aimed at addressing these systemic issues.
These recommendations include:
- Focusing on transforming underlying conditions, including poverty and racial inequity.
- Reducing police killings.
- Decriminalizing low-level drug offenses.
- Implementing a national strategy to reduce the rate of Black imprisonment.
- Abolishing the death penalty and life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Support for Reparatory Justice:
Geneva Council stands with the former U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet’s call for reparations, broadly defined to include restitution, rehabilitation, educational reforms, acknowledgment, apologies, memorialization, and measures to prevent further injustices. These calls emphasize the importance of addressing the deeply rooted issues of racial discrimination within the U.S. criminal justice system.
Geneva Council remains committed to shedding light on human rights violations worldwide and supporting efforts to create a more just and equitable society. We urge the international community to take note of the U.N. report’s findings and work collectively to address these critical issues.