Democracy in Today’s America (IV)

Part I

Part II

Part III

What else is in the third basket from Uncle Sam?

The Russian Foreign Ministry report on human rights in the United States, along with other crimes, recorded numerous cases of police abuse. In January 2009, the American edition of the Emergency Medicine Journal published the results of a survey of doctors in emergency rooms. The study involved 315 doctors, and almost all the respondents (98%) reported that they had at least once in their career seen patients who had been victims of police abuse.

According to the NGO, «Amnesty International», in the period from 2001 to February 2012, at least 500 people in the U.S. died from police use of stun guns during arrest or during detention. In 2011, after being stopped by California police for a traffic violation, 43-year-old A. Kephart died. An autopsy revealed that he was struck by stun gun 16 times, yet none of the three officers was punished.

Various offenses of a sexual nature (sexual harassment, sexual abuse, rape, etc.) are regular. According to data available in the public domain, in 2010 alone 618 police officers were convicted for this type of conduct, while in 180 of these cases minors were the targets of the violence. Human rights activists say that the level of sexual crime among American police is much higher than in the U.S. population as a whole.

Claims of excessive force by police have been received from members of the movement «Occupy Wall Street» which acts against social inequality. In October 2011, in Oakland, California, police fractured the skull of 24-year-old Iraqi war veteran S. Olsen, leaving him without the power of speech for some time. In November 2011, the Seattle police used tear gas against a crowd of protesters, including 84-year-old activist D.Reyni, a priest and a 19-year-old pregnant woman. In January 2012, in Oakland 400 people were arrested on charges of vandalism and failure to disperse, and, according to the detainees they were not given the opportunity to voluntarily obey the authorities.

Camps participating in the «Occupy Wall Street» movement were forcibly eradicated in New York, Boston, Denver, Baltimore, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington and other U.S. cities.

The systematic violations of human rights in United States prisons have come to be mass practice. America remains the country with the largest number of prisoners in the world (2.2 million people, or every 99th member of the adult population); more than 60% of American prisoners are members of racial and ethnic minorities. The number of persons sentenced to life imprisonment is steadily growing- in 2008 alone it was 140.6 thousand, of which 6.8 thousand were teenagers. In some states, one in 20 prisoners is held in extreme isolation – in solitary confinement. Many prisons do not meet even the minimum standards of detention. Regular and massive numbers of prisoners (up to 2 million victims for the period from 2003 to the present day.) are being harassed by prison staff, including sexual assault.

In the U.S., the exploitation of prison labor is a thriving «business». One in 10 prisoners in this country is held in a commercial prison. In 2010, two private prison corporations made around $ 3 billion in profit. According to human rights activists, as well as those serving time in U.S. prisons, private prisons in most cases do not provide even the minimum standards for a detention facility. Approximately 60 thousand people in the United States are held in solitary confinement for long periods. 20 thousand are kept alone in single cells on a regular basis. For example, in Arizona, according to the «Amnesty International» report, over 2.9 thousand people are kept in extreme isolation, or one in 20 prisoners, including minors. This situation, according to numerous accounts, often leads to serious mental disorders.

Human rights activists are particularly concerned about the situation of juvenile offenders in the US. Currently, about seven thousand of them are sentenced to life imprisonment, with 2.5 thousand of these without the right to pardon. In some states, judges are required to sentence teens to life imprisonment if they have committed certain crimes (not necessarily including murder), without taking into account any mitigating circumstances.

In April 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prison administrations are justified in striping naked all newly arrived detainees and subjecting them to a body search, regardless of the severity of the crime committed. American prison authorities sometimes force strip search people detained for minor offenses such as driving with no lights or defective exhaust muffler.

In 33 U.S. states the death penalty is still permitted. There are 3.1 thousand prisoners, 62 of which are women, awaiting the execution of the death sentence handed down to them. From 1976 to 2005, 22 minors were executed in the United States. According to American defenders, from 5 to 10% of those sentenced to capital punishment in the United States suffer from serious mental disorders. In cases of capital punishment, signs of racial discrimination are evident. Capital punishment is implemented in 5 ways – hanging, firing squad, electric chair, gas chamber, and lethal injection (95% of executions) which, contrary to the assurances of the authorities, leads to suffering for those sentenced. In March 2011, Ohio became the first state in which the death sentence was carried out using a substance that has previously been used by veterinarians for animal euthanasia. This year alone Texas enforced 12 death sentences and already plan another 3 in November.

Hundreds of thousands of children in the U.S. are abused, resulting in some cases in death (in 2010 – 1.6 thousand). Corporal punishment is allowed by law in 19 states, and up to 7.5% of students in the U.S. are subject to this. There are learning centers where children have been «treated» with electric shocks, deprived of food and forced to inhale ammonia. The USA is one of the three countries in the world that have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. There is still an acute problem of violence against children adopted from Russia.

Social and economic rights are seriously disrupted in the US. The country has 12.8 million unemployed, 40 million people lack health insurance, and 14.5% of families are experiencing food shortages. The system of protection of workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively in the US is one of the weakest in the developed world. Over the past 10 years, the U.S. has not ratified any of the conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO). At the same time in the country, the practice of lobbying by various interest groups working in the favor of big business is widespread, which, according to experts of the IDS in New York, is, in fact, a form of legalized corruption.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States has one of the highest levels of income inequality. Of the 34 states in which the international organization conducts research, it puts America ahead of only Turkey, Mexico and Chile.

According to the statistical analysis of Sentier Research, in 2008-2010, white Americans made up 64% of the population but received 76% of total income, while the share of African-Americans and Hispanics, are respectively 13% and 16% of the population, and received 8% and 9% of revenue. According to the Pew Research Centre, the welfare of African Americans has fallen by 53% during the recession. In 2009, the average African-American family capital was 5.6 thousand dollars.

The life of Native Americans, which make up 1.7% of the U.S. population (5.2 million people) can be described as very unstable, especially for those who are still living on reservations (about 700 thousand). Almost a third of them have incomes below the official poverty line and unemployment on reservations is 50%, and in some cases (for example, «Rosebud»), more than 80%. The annual income of an Indian family, in general, is half the income of the ordinary American. A place called Allen in South Dakota (96.4% of the population are Indians), according to official data, is the poorest in the country, with the average annual per capita income being just over 1.5 thousand dollars, and with 96% of the population living below the poverty line .

One of the most disenfranchised segments of the population of America are migrants, who make up at least half of all those employed in the agricultural sector. Labor rights are violated not only for illegal immigrants, but also those of foreigners working in the country legally. As noted by NGO Southern Poverty Law Center, in order to participate in the federal program of labor migration on the H-2A visa, foreign workers usually pay their «recruiters» huge contributions and as a result fall into debt. Coming to the U.S., they have no right to change employer, who arrange their visa, even if they become the target of exploitation. At the same time, they cannot leave the country until they collect enough money to pay their debt.

According to a report released in 2011, by the organization “No More Deaths» entitled «Culture of cruelty», by their actions, U.S. border guards increase the risk of death to illegal migrants, by deliberately driving them into particularly dangerous and difficult areas. During detention illegal migrants, including children, are often denied water, food and medical care, and 10% of detainees are physically abused. Workers also complain of unsanitary and extremely cramped conditions in detention, confiscation of personal items, including documents, psychological pressure and deliberate separation of families.

* * *

This brief review shows that the issue of human rights, facing all of humanity, is acutely relevant for modern America. All claims of the United States to be the moral leader in this area will require a lot of preparatory work to rid Americans of their own «Augean stables». Otherwise, whoever receives the recipes in this respect from Washington, will always say, «Physician, heal thyself!»

Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

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