STUDIES: Human Rights Groups Examine Death Penalty in California and Louisiana

By aholsinger

The Center for Constitutional Rights and the International Federation for Human Rights recently released an analysis of the death penalty in California and Louisiana. The report concluded that those states’ application of capital punishment “violates U.S. obligations under international human rights law to prevent and prohibit discrimination and torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.” Researchers conducted interviews with many of those involved in the legal system and examined data on charging, sentencing, and executions. They found that racial disparities in the death penalty in both states constituted discrimination. The report was particularly critical of death row conditions, saying, “[E]xtreme temperatures, lack of access to adequate medical and mental health care, overcrowding and extended periods of isolation, do not respect and promote human dignity…Such deplorable circumstances have been condemned by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture as constituting cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, or, in certain circumstances, torture.”

The report offered a series of recommendations for improving conditions and providing full due process to defendants, stating: “[A] moratorium on executions must be imposed to protect condemned prisoners’ right to life. In addition, states must alter trial procedures to ensure that more defendants are not sentenced to death in trials rife with discrimination. Further, reforms to prison conditions must be implemented to ensure that those already under a sentence of death are not suffering torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.”

(“Discrimination, Torture, and Execution: A Human Rights Analysis of the Death Penalty in California and Louisiana,” Center for Constitutional Rights and International Federation for Human Rights, October, 2013.) See DPIC’s coverage of the report’s initial findings. See also Studies and Death Row.

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