California hit a milestone this month with the first release under new laws of a man sentenced as a teenager to life without parole. Edel Gonzalez was 16 at the time of his crime and spent nearly 24 years in prison.
Last August, the world watched in horror as the extremist armed group Islamic State, also known as ISIS, attacked Iraq’s Yezidi community. Thousands fled without food or water into the nearby Sinjar mountains, but ISIS fighters waylaid many, executing men and abducting thousands of people, mainly women and children. Rumors of forced marriage and enslavement of Yezidi girls and women swirled, and were later confirmed as a trickle of women and girls – number into the hundreds – escaped. Human Rights Watch researchers Samer Muscati and Rothna Begum interviewed 20 of these women and girls and shared their findings with Amy Braunschweiger.
When I first visited the Baltimore City Detention Center in 1999, I found an archaic, decaying facility that held people in grim cells with no direct natural light. The detention center held many children who were charged as adults, and they suffered some of the worst abuses — including extended periods of confinement in cells punctuated by brutal acts of violence, often encouraged by guards.
Each year, when school lets out for the summer, children as young as 12 — and sometimes younger — start working long hours tending tobacco in Virginia and other big tobacco states. They absorb nicotine through their skin, get sprayed with pesticides and use sharp axes to hack down rows of tobacco taller than they are — all in the extreme heat and humidity common during the summer months in the South. The work makes many of them sick.
More children work in agriculture than in any other industry in the world. But the scale and complexity of the problem is no excuse for tolerating a practice that traps children in multi-generational cycles of poverty, or, worse, leaves them injured, maimed, or dead.