About Steven Hawkins

Steven W. Hawkins serves as the Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. Prior to joining Amnesty International USA, Steve worked as an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund where he represented African American men facing the death penalty throughout the United States' Deep South. He investigated and brought litigation that saved the lives and led to the release of three black teens wrongfully convicted in Tennessee. Steve continued his work in social justice focused on abolishing the death penalty. As Executive Director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in Washington, D.C., he led a powerful partnership of organizations that successfully campaigned to abolish the death penalty for juvenile crimes. Following his tenure at the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Steve moved into philanthropy to advocate for human rights and social justice causes at the JEHT Foundation and later at Atlantic Philanthropies, where his work included directing the foundation's investment in a $60 million campaign to defend human rights against national security abuses. Returning to the NAACP as Executive Vice President and Chief Program Officer, Steve continued at the forefront of social justice, often working in coalition with Amnesty International USA on abolishing the death penalty and national security issues. Steve obtained his undergraduate degree from Harvard College and his law degree from New York University.
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From US to Brazil: Say Their Names

Demonstrators march through the Manguinhos favela to protest against police killings of blacks on August 22, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Every year, Brazil's police are responsible for around 2,000 deaths, one of the highest rates in the world. Many of the deaths in Rio involve blacks killed in favelas, also known as slums. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Demonstrators march through the Manguinhos favela to protest against police killings of blacks on August 22, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Every year, Brazil’s police are responsible for around 2,000 deaths, one of the highest rates in the world. Many of the deaths in Rio involve blacks killed in favelas, also known as slums. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

By Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA, and Atila Roque, executive director of Amnesty International Brazil

Here in the United States, we know the names. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Tamir Rice. Walter Scott. Freddie Gray. Rekia Boyd. All African Americans killed by police.

But we don’t know the names of Eduardo de Jesus Ferreira — 10 years old and shot by police who mistook a phone for a gun. Or Alan de Souza Lima — who at 15 was filming his friends laughing and joking and unwittingly captured his own death seconds later in a hail of bullets. Or Claudia da Silva Ferreira, a 38-year-old mother who was wounded in a police shootout, tossed out of the unsecured back door of a police vehicle and fatally dragged 1,000 feet.

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USA: It’s Time for Real Criminal Justice Reform

US President Barack Obama speaks as he tours the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015. Obama is the first sitting US President to visit a federal prison, in a push to reform one of the most expensive and crowded prison systems in the world.  (Photo credit:SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama speaks as he tours the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015. Obama is the first sitting US President to visit a federal prison, in a push to reform one of the most expensive and crowded prison systems in the world. (Photo credit:SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post

Last week, President Obama put a much-needed spotlight on the vicious cycle of mass incarceration. In the past three decades, the prison population in the U.S. has ballooned due to a number of factors that have created a system rife with discrimination and other abuses. And the burden falls disproportionately on low-income people and people of color.

The President made a historic visit on July 16 to a federal prison — the first sitting president to do so. His visit spotlighted the massive overcrowding problem — he was shown one 9-by-10-foot cell that sometimes holds three prisoners — that is the result of a broken criminal justice system.

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After 30 Years, Accountability for Police Torture in Chicago

This article originally appeared in McClatchy

While the nation watches as the city of Baltimore awaits justice from the investigation of the role of Baltimore police in the death of Freddie Gray, Chicago has just made history in holding police accountable for abuse.

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How Did the State of the Union Stack Up On Human Rights?

Obama Travels To Connecticut To Advocate Passing Of Stricter Gun Laws

During tonight’s State of the Union address, President Obama touched on issues of national security, criminal justice reform, immigration policy and women’s health, all of which involve human rights.

It is important to promote awareness of these issues as part of the US national conversation. But as always, the proof is in the pudding. So how do President Obama’s words stack up against actions?

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An Obligation to Seek Justice for CIA Torture

Torture activism in front of the White House

The Senate torture report alleges several grave abuses – such as use of rectal feeding and rehydration in the absence of medical necessity – that were not authorized by even the dubious legal memos, and thus do not fit the Justice Department’s rationale. Even Alberto Gonzales, attorney general under President George W. Bush, has said he is troubled by evidence suggesting the CIA went beyond Justice Department guidance. The Senate torture report also concludes that the CIA “repeatedly provided inaccurate information” to the Justice Department.

If the Justice Department already knew of the abuses reported in the Senate torture report, it must do more to explain why it found no basis for prosecutions. And if the Justice Department did not have access to this information, how can it dismiss the Senate torture report’s new evidence out of hand?

Nor is it sufficient for the Justice Department to cite “good faith” reliance on dubious legal guidance as a basis for closing investigations. The U.S. is bound by international law to ensure accountability for torture.

This is an excerpt. Read the full piece and upvote it at US News’ Debate Club.

 

Ferguson: Today marks a pivotal moment for US human rights

Imatter

Today, we learned that a grand jury in Ferguson decided not to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown — an unarmed 18-year-old — in August.

The community response to Mike Brown’s death, and the response that is likely still to come, mark a pivotal moment in the human rights movement and in U.S. history.

It’s a moment of passion, of frustration, and of activism.

It’s within this moment that officials in Ferguson and throughout the United States must stand up to ensure that each individual’s human rights — including the right to freely express themselves in the form of peaceful protest — are respected, protected and fulfilled. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

When Will We See Justice for Michael Brown?

Police surround and detain two people in a car on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Ferguson is experiencing its fourth day of unrest after a police officer shot and killed teenager Michael Brown on Saturday. (Photo credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Police surround and detain two people in a car on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Ferguson is experiencing its fourth day of unrest after a police officer shot and killed teenager Michael Brown on Saturday (Photo credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images).

This piece originally appeared in The Guardian under the title “Police Brutality Must Be Punished if We Want Real Justice for Michael Brown.”

From California to New York, from the streets in Ferguson to those in the south side of Chicago, police brutality continues unabated all across the United States because of brazen impunity – because in this country’s long history of abuse and violence by those obligated to respect and uphold the human rights of our communities, there is still little accountability.

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