Human Rights in the United States


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We use cookies to deliver our online services. Details and instructions on how to disable those cookies are set out at nortonrosefulbright. By continuing to use this website you agree to our use of our cookies unless you have disabled them. Thought leadership Publications Recent US developments in business and human rights. About our Business and Human Rights practice Norton Rose Fulbright has a cross-jurisdictional team of lawyers that is dedicated to helping companies manage corporate social responsibility and address human rights concerns.

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Publication November 20, Energy. Prohibition on gifts of life insurance policies to charities in British Columbia by BC residents. The initiative was one of several that states passed that advanced criminal justice reform, including an initiative in Colorado that removed language in the state constitution that permitted convicted criminals to be forced to work in prison without pay or restitution; an initiative in Florida, allowing sentencing reforms to be retroactive; one in Michigan that legalized marijuana for recreational use; and another in Washington state that strengthened police accountability.

The death penalty is still permissible in 30 states.

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According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 21 people in eight states had been executed by the end of November, all in the south and midwest of the country. There were 11 executions in Texas. All but one of these executions were committed by lethal injection, the other by electric chair.

Trump and administration officials have called for the death penalty for drug sellers. Racial disparities permeate every part of the US criminal justice system. Black people are 13 percent of the population but close to 40 percent of those in prisons. They are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of white people.

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Black people use illegal drugs at similar rates to white people, but suffer drug arrests at significantly higher rates. According to the Washington Post , police reportedly shot and killed people in the US as of the beginning of October. Of those killed, whose race is known, 22 percent were black. Of the unarmed people killed by police, 39 percent were black. The Justice Department rolled back efforts to investigate local police departments following credible reports of systemic constitutional violations. Some state governments have taken on this oversight role.

Racial disparities in police use of force , arrests, citations, and traffic stops continue to exist. According to the Justice Department, the juvenile arrest rate has been declining but dramatic racial disparities persist: children of color are disproportionately represented at every stage, and in 37 states rates of incarceration were higher for black children than for white, according to the Sentencing Project.

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According to the Citizens Committee for Children, roughly 32, children under 18 are admitted annually to adult jails. All 50 states continue to prosecute some children in adult criminal courts. Approximately 1, people have life without parole sentences for crimes committed under 18, according to the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth.

In October, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that life sentences without parole for crimes committed below age 18 violated the state constitution.

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In all, 21 states and the District of Columbia now prohibit juvenile life without parole. California passed a law in October that ends the sentencing of 14 and year-olds in adult court. And in April, New York ended the automatic trial of 16 and year-olds in adult court, although children of these—or younger—ages, who are accused of violent crimes, will still begin their cases in adult court with the possibility of transfer to the juvenile system. Poor people accused of crimes are often jailed because judges require money bail as a condition of release, forcing people not convicted of any crime to stay behind bars for long periods of time awaiting trial, and resulting in coerced guilty pleas.

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A movement to reduce the use of money bail is growing but many states, including California—which passed a bill eliminating money bail in August—are replacing money bail with risk assessment tools that could entrench discrimination while failing to lower rates of pretrial incarceration. Many local jurisdictions impose excessive fees and fines for even minor violations of law. If unpaid, these debts can result in arrests that feed a cycle of incarceration and increased poverty. Similarly, some states privatize misdemeanor probation services, which penalizes poor people who commit minor violations and leads to abuses.

In June , the United Nations UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights issued a report sharply criticizing the US for its policies towards the poor. During one week in October, men espousing far right and white supremacist views allegedly committed three separate violent acts : one carried out a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 worshipers and injuring more; another mailed deadly pipe bombs to leading Democratic figures; and another shot two African-Americans in a Louisville grocery store, killing both.

Multiple organizations and the government , which use different methodologies to collect different types of information about hate crimes, reported an increase in the number of hate-motivated incidents from prior years. More than 2, families were forcibly separated at the US border as the Trump administration targeted parents traveling with children for criminal prosecution.


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  • As part of this policy, children with disabilities were separated from their families, including in one case, a year-old girl with Down Syndrome from her mother. Though a federal court and tremendous public outcry put a stop to mass separations in late June, reunifications of hundreds of families lagged for months. According to media reports , families continued to be separated on a smaller scale after Trump issued an executive order supposedly ending the practice.

    Reportedly, many of these continued separations were based on vague or unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing or minor violations against the parents.


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    Its primary author, Thomas Jefferson, wrote the Declaration as a formal explanation of why Congress had voted on July 2 to declare independence from Great Britain, more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, and as a statement announcing that the thirteen American Colonies were no longer a part of the British Empire. Congress issued the Declaration of Independence in several forms.

    It was initially published as a printed broadsheet that was widely distributed and read to the public.

    A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States

    Philosophically, the Declaration stressed two themes: individual rights and the right of revolution. These ideas became widely held by Americans and spread internationally as well, influencing in particular the French Revolution. Written during the summer of in Philadelphia, the Constitution of the United States of America is the fundamental law of the US federal system of government and the landmark document of the Western world. It is the oldest written national constitution in use and defines the principal organs of government and their jurisdictions and the basic rights of citizens.

    The first ten amendments to the Constitution—the Bill of Rights—came into effect on December 15, , limiting the powers of the federal government of the United States and protecting the rights of all citizens, residents and visitors in American territory. The Bill of Rights protects freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to keep and bear arms, the freedom of assembly and the freedom to petition.

    It also prohibits unreasonable search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment and compelled self-incrimination. Among the legal protections it affords, the Bill of Rights prohibits Congress from making any law respecting establishment of religion and prohibits the federal government from depriving any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law.

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