• Prisoners and detainees in many local, state and federal facilities, including those run by private contractors, confront conditions that are abusive, degrading and dangerous. Soaring prison populations due to harsh sentencing laws—which legislators have been reluctant to change—and immigrant detention policies coupled with tight budgets have left governments unwilling to make the investments in staff and resources necessary to ensure safe and humane conditions of confinement. Such failures violate the human rights of all persons deprived of their liberty to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

  • The Federal Bureau of Prisons blocks all but a few federal prisoners from compassionate release, Human Rights Watch and Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) said in a report released today. The 128-page report is the first comprehensive examination of how compassionate release in the federal system works.

Featured Content

Reports

Prison and Detention Conditions

  • Mar 12, 2014
    The United Nations Human Rights Committee should conclude that US electronic surveillance and intelligence gathering violate fundamental civil and political rights, including the right to privacy.
  • Mar 6, 2014
    Human Rights Watch writes to commend the agreement between the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and the New York Civil Liberties Union restricting the use of solitary confinement for youth, persons with intellectual disabilities, and pregnant women and setting the stage for further, more comprehensive reforms.
  • Dec 5, 2013
    Federal prosecutors routinely threaten extraordinarily severe prison sentences to coerce drug defendants into waiving their right to trial and pleading guilty.
  • Dec 4, 2013
    Sandra Avery was once a crack user, and had been convicted three times for possessing $100 worth of the drug for personal use. But she pulled herself together, joined the army, earned an accounting degree, and on leaving the army got a good job. Years later, her life spun out of control. She married a crack dealer and started using again. Then she and her husband were arrested together for selling crack.
  • Nov 30, 2013
    A drug addict with three minor possession convictions is arrested on federal charges for dealing a small amount of crack. Question: which of these sentences do prosecutors consider an appropriate punishment: a) 10 years; b) life without parole? Answer: both.
  • Nov 18, 2013
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  • Sep 4, 2013
    It's a good day to remember Rodney Hulin, a physically slight teenager who was serving time for arson in a Texas prison. Repeatedly sodomized and beaten by older inmates, he killed himself in 1996 after prison officials refused to protect him. None of the rapists were ever punished. Rodney’s story was one of many accounts of brutal sexual violence and impunity that helped galvanize political momentum behind PREA.