• 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

  • Jul 29, 2014
    The US Congress should support greater due process protections for migrant families rather than increasing funding for facilities to detain those crossing the US southern border, Human Rights Watch said today.
  • Jul 18, 2014
    A decision by the US Sentencing Commission on July 18, 2014, will give 46,000 federal inmates serving unnecessarily long sentences for drug offenses a chance to seek sentence reductions. The decision would make a recent amendment to the guidelines for calculating sentences for drug offenses fully retroactive, covering inmates already sentenced as well as future offenders.
  • Jun 14, 2014
    Hopes are high that the U.S. Congress will do the right thing this year and reform notoriously harsh federal drug sentencing laws that have crammed U.S. prisons with small-time offenders.
  • May 6, 2014
    Far too many US laws violate basic principles of justice by requiring disproportionately severe punishment, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
  • Apr 30, 2014
    Oklahoma should end its failed experiment with the death penalty. On the evening of April 29, 2014, during an attempt to execute Clayton Lockett by lethal injection, he appeared to regain consciousness. Witnesses reported that Lockett began to mumble, calling out “man” and “something’s wrong,” tried to lift his head, and began to go into a seizure. Lockett died of a heart attack 40 minutes after the execution had begun.
  • 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.