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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Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
This blog is part of a series on human rights in the State of the Union address. The United States has an obligation to pursue policies that ensure respect for human rights at home and around the world. Follow along and join the conversation using #SOTUrights.
Dear Mr. President,
I call on you to use your State of the Union address to recommit to human rights standards in the criminal justice system, especially as it affects communities of color in the U.S.
The demand for an inclusive dialogue on race and policing has taken center stage following the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Gardner, Ezell Ford and Tamir Rice and the lack of accountability for the police officers responsible. Community members and leaders are calling for a comprehensive examination of police procedures and practices which directly or indirectly facilitate hostile interactions between police and the communities they are entrusted to protect. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
By Samir Goswami, Director of Amnesty International USA’s Individuals & Communities at Risk Campaign
Last week, we issued an Urgent Action to the disturbing news that Saudi Arabian national Abdullah al-Qahtani was at imminent risk of execution.
Abdullah was convicted of robbery and murder under Iraq’s Anti-Terrorism Law. While in custody, he was viciously beaten, burned and asphyxiated into “confessing” to being a member of al-Qaida. Four of Abdullah’s six co-defendants were executed last week and for a time, it seemed as though Abdullah was next.
But then, an amazing thing happened. We emailed a petition out to our Amnesty members and within 24 hours, received over 30,000 signatures.
Abdullah is still alive and pressure from activists like you likely helped spare his life. Today, Abdullah’s petition has over 40,000 signatures. But make no mistake – his execution is imminent. Abdullah’s attorney urges continued vigilance:
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