Tag Archives: Civil Liberties
prisoner in solitary reaching out to a warden's hand

Solitary Confinement in the U.S. Prison System- Inhumane and Ineffective

By Sophie Ranen

As an intern at The National Religious Campaign Against Torture, I have had the opportunity to learn about a pressing racial justice issue: solitary confinement.

Currently, the United States holds at least 80,000 prisoners in isolation, more than any other country in the world. Prisoners in solitary confinement are held alone, or with another person, in a small cell for 22-24 hours a day and deprived of human contact, natural sunlight, and productive activities for months, years, or even decades. Isolation is used both as punishment for behavior in prison as well as gang management. For the former, prisoners receive a sentence for a specified time-period while prisoners with assumed gang affiliation often receive indefinite sentences. Additionally, solitary confinement is often used as punishment for non-violent infractions of prison discipline such as talking back, having too many postage stamps, wearing the wrong sweatshirt, or cheering too loudly for the Patriots during the Super Bowl. Read more…

Cartoon headphones on the Earth from the NSA

What Can We Call a Victory for Privacy Rights?

By Elise Sugarman

On June 2, one day after the Patriot Act expired, the Senate passed the USA Freedom Act to renew three parts of the Patriot Act, including the controversial Section 215. Despite keeping the section which allows the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to require all professionals and companies, including doctors, universities, restaurants, etc., to share their customer and/or clients’ records, the legislation ended the National Security Agency’s (NSA) phone collection program. This program granted the NSA the authority to collect records and information on terrorist suspects through their phone calls. Furthermore, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals determined on May 7 that the program was unconstitutional as it represents a shift in the government’s approach to combating terrorism. Specifically, the court ruled that the program is illegal because it does not fall under the clear language of the law. Read more…

What Ancient Tents of the Israelites Teach us About Modern Privacy Issues

Components of the USA Patriot Act are set to expire next month, giving us an important opportunity to consider contemporary issues of privacy and national security going forward. The Patriot Act, signed into law in 2001 by President Bush and extended in 2011 by President Obama, is a highly controversial piece of legislation that significantly expanded government surveillance of American citizens. The bill was drafted in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks that took place on September 11, 2001and was intended to be an anti-terrorism measure. Many, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Constitution Project, opposed the bill on the grounds that it restricted civil liberties and privacy rights. Today, issues surrounding the extent of the National Security Agency’s surveillance remain at the forefront of privacy and security conversations. Companies including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook are vocally opposing the extension of the Patriot Act.

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High School Student Lobbies Against Torture at L’Taken

Last week, Bailey Roos of Temple Beth El in San Antonio, Texas lobbied her members of Congress in support of the American Anti-Torture Act last introduced in the 112th Congress as part of our L’Taken social justice seminar. In her speech, Bailey talked about her own perception of torture as it related to her Jewish values and her experience visiting Israel last summer: Read more…

We Can’t Wait Another Year to Close Guantanamo

This Sunday, January 11, marks 13 years since the first detainees arrived at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. The facility was opened in 2002 to hold and interrogate individuals suspected to be related to the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent “War on Terror” launched by the Bush Administration. Over the past 13 years, 779 prisoners have been held at Guantanamo, 127 of whom remain there today: detained without a trial or even held indefinitely. Read more…

After The Torture Report

Earlier this month, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee’s report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program was released to the public. The hope of all who oppose torture is that the report will serve to prevent the behavior described within it from ever happening again, including the key findings that prisoners held by the U.S. or our allies on our behalf were grossly mistreated and abused. After years of opacity, we are finally able to know definitively how inhumane and ineffective “enhanced interrogation” has been.

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Human Rights Day and the Senate Torture Report

Today is Human Rights Day, celebrated worldwide on the anniversary of the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration includes 30 articles, including the right to education, freedom from slavery, and equality under law has been used as a basis for international treaties against discrimination, on behalf of the rights of women and, perhaps most notably on Human Rights Day 2014, the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT). Read more…

At the U.N. Convention Against Torture, Hints of Positive Change in Eradicating Torture

This past week, the United Nations Convention Against Torture met and examined President George W. Bush and President Obama’s track records on cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners. The panel that monitors compliance with an international anti-torture was critical of the treatment of prisoners currently being held at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. They questioned the United States delegation on practices such as the four-hour minimum sleep standards that could lead to unnecessary sleep deprivation, according to a New York Times report from last week.

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