Full Text of Human Rights Record of the United States in 2011
Updated: 2012-05-25 21:42
The US remains the country with the largest "prison population" and the highest per capita level of imprisonment in the world, and the detention centers' conditions are terrible. According to the US Department of Justice, the number of prisoners amounted to 2.3 million in 2009 and one in every 132 American citizens is behind bars.
Meanwhile, more than 140,000 are serving life sentences ("Report: On the situation with human rights in a host of world states," the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russia, December 28, 2011). According to a Los Angeles Times report on May 24, 2011, in a California prison, as many as 54 inmates may share a single toilet and as many as 200 prisoners may live in a gymnasium (Los Angeles Times, May 24, 2011).
According to data issued by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the estimated number of prison and jail inmates experiencing sexual victimization totaled 88,500 in the US between October 2008 and December 2009 (www.bjs.gov). Since April 2011, officials stopped serving lunch on the weekend in some US prisons as a way to cut food-service costs.
About 23,000 inmates in 36 prisons are eating two meals a day on Saturdays and Sundays instead of three (The New York Times, October 20, 2011). Harsh conditions and treatment in prisons have caused recurring protests and suicides of inmates.
There were two major hunger strikes in California prisons staged by a total of more than 6,000 and 12,000 prisoners in July and October 2011, respectively, to protest against what they call harsh treatment and detention conditions (CNN, October 4, 2011; The New York Times, July 7, 2011).
According to a Chicago Tribune report on July 20, 2011, since 2000, at least 175 youths have attempted to kill themselves inside Department of Juvenile Justice lockup facilities in Chicago and seven youths committed suicide.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture in a 2011 report noted that in the Untied States an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 individuals are being held in isolation, and the US government in 2011 for two times turned down the Special Rapporteur's request for a private and unmonitored meeting with detainees held in isolation.
III. On Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
The United States is the world's richest country, but quite a lot of Americans still lack guarantee for their economic, social and cultural rights that are necessary for personal dignity and self-development.
The United States has not done enough to protect its citizens from unemployment. At no time in the last 60 years had the country's long-term unemployment been so high for so long as it was in 2011. It has been one of the Western developed countries that provide the poorest protection over laborer's rights.
It has not yet approved any international labor organization convention in the last 10 years. Moreover, the United States lacks effective arbitration system to deal with enterprises that refuse to make compromise with the employees. The New York Times reported on December 12, 2011, that at last count, 13.3 million people were officially unemployed and that 5.7 million of them had been out of work for more than six months (The New York Times, December 12, 2011).
The unemployment rate was 8.9 percent for 2011 (www.bls.gov), and the unemployment rate for American youth between 25 and 34 stood at 26 percent in October of that year (The World Journal, November 18, 2011), with more underemployed. A total of 84 metropolitan areas reported jobless rates of at least 10.0 percent, and El Centro, California, recorded the highest unemployment rate of 29.6 percent in September of 2011 (www.bls.gov). The unemployed people suffered from not only financial pressures but also mental pressures including anxiety and depression.
There is a widening of the gap between the extreme top and bottom (The USA Today, September 13, 2011), showing apparent unfair wealth distribution. The United States claims to have a large population of middle class, making up 80 percent of its total population, while there is only very few impoverished and extremely rich people (The China Press, October 13, 2011).
However, this is not the truth. According to the report issued by the US Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on October 25, 2011, the richest one percent of American families have the fastest growth of family revenue from 1979 to 2007 with an increase of 275 percent for after-tax income, while the after-tax income of the poorest 20 percent grew by only 18 percent (The World Journal, October 26, 2011).
Cable News Network reported on February 16, 2011, that in the last 20 years, incomes for 90 percent of Americans have been stuck in neutral, while the richest 1 percent of Americans have seen their incomes grow by 33 percent. Economic Policy Institute published a paper on October 26, 2011, saying that in 2009 the ratio of wealth owned by the wealthiest one percent to the wealth owned by median household was 225 to 1 (www.epi.org). Besides, in the United States, the best-off 10 percent made on average 15 times the incomes of the poorest 10 percent (Reuters, December 9, 2011).
The wealthiest 400 Americans have 1.5 trillion US dollars' worth of assets (The China Press, October 13, 2011), or the same combined wealth as the poorest half of Americans -- over 150 million people (www.currydemocrats.org). The annual incomes of the richest 10 chief executive officers (CEO) were enough to pay the salary of 18,330 employees (The World Journal, October 16, 2011). Roughly 11 percent of Congress members had net worth of more than $9 million, and 249 members were millionaires.
The median net worth: $891,506, was almost nine times the typical household (The USA Today, November 16, 2011). A commentary by the Spiegel said that the US has developed into an economic entity of "winners take all." American politician Larry Bartels said that fundamental shifts in wealth allocation was caused by political decisions rather than the consequences of market forces or financial crisis (The Spiegel, October 24, 2011).
Contrary to the wealthiest 10 percent, the number of Americans living in poverty as well as poverty rate continued to hit record high, which is a great irony in the affluent America.
A report published by the Census Bureau on September 13, 2011, showed that 46.2 million people lived below the official poverty line in 2010, 2.6 million more than 2009, hitting the highest record since 1959. The report also said that the percentage of American who lived below the poverty line in 2010 was 15.1 percent, the highest level since 1993.
An analysis done by the Brookings Institution estimated that at the current rate, the recession would have added nearly 10 million people to the ranks of the poor by the middle of the decade. According to the analysis, 22 percent of children were in poverty (The New York Times, September 13, 2011).
Another survey showed that 12 states of the U.S had poverty rates above 17 percent, with Mississippi's poverty rate standing at 22.4 percent (The Huffington Post, October 21, 2011). The US has grown into a country dependent on food stamps (Reuters, August 22, 2011).
The percentage of Americans who did not have enough money to buy food grew from 9 percent in 2008 to 19 percent in 2011 (The World Journal, October 15, 2011). In 2010, 17.2 million households, or 14.5 percent, were food insecure (www. Worldhunger. org). In 2011, 46 million Americans lived on food stamps, about 15 percent of the total population, up 74 percent from 2007 (Reuters, August 22, 2011).