Domestic Human Rights and Mass Incarceration: Why Should American Presidents Uphold Domestic Human Rights?

America’s “War on Drugs” has allowed mass
incarceration in the United States to grow exponentially over the past 35
years. Currently America represents about 5% of the world’s population;
however, we contain 25% of the world’s jailed population. Furthermore, our
penal system disproportionately discriminates against minority groups and
youth. Being that one in fifteen black males and one in thirty six Hispanic
males over the age of 18 have been incarcerated, our penal system has made a
business out of statistics and stereotypes. More than ever before, Americans
have been deprived of justice and dulled heavy punishments that serve no
benefit to their personal growth or to the public’s safety. Our criminal
justice system is violating human rights by allowing the “War on Drugs” to fuel
social biases and cripple minority communities.

In the recent novel written by Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow, she states that “Convictions for drug offenses are the single most important cause of the explosion in incarceration rates in the United States. Drug offenses alone account for two-thirds of the rise in the federal inmate population […] Nothing has contributed more to the
systematic mass incarceration of people of color in the United states than the
War on Drugs” (Alexander, Michelle pg. 59).

With such perplexing figures, the system of mass incarceration is increasingly
recognized as a social justice issue that threatens democracy. As embodied by
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the United States upholds the
values of human rights as a national interest in order to promote peace,
strengthen democracy, and support international and domestic justice. However,
in this instance, the U.S. has disregarded maintaining the values of human
rights. It is therefore my question, “Why have American Presidents decidedly
ignored the 5th amendment of the UDHR and continued to allow the
prison system to inflict punishments which do not reflect the crime”?

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