Hidden from public view, prisons can become terrifying institutions of torture, disease, and degradation. Inmates can be deprived of food and health care, housed in unsanitary and degrading conditions, and subjected to cruel disciplinary practices and torture.
PHR has investigated prison conditions in the US and abroad to expose human rights violations and promote humane conditions and the availability of health care, exposing violations of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners promulgated by the UN.
PHR's report, Cruel and Inhuman Treatment, The Use of Four-Point Restraint at Syracuse County Jail, Onondaga County, Syracuse, found that inmates stretched on their bunks shackled with leg irons and handcuffs, suffered musculoskeletal and, in some cases, long-term neurological damage. The investigation prompted an end to the practice.
In its international work, PHR has investigated and issued reports on prison conditions around the world. In 1995 we issued a report on Health Conditions in Cambodian Prisons, documenting the horrific conditions under which prisoners were held. Within weeks after PHR condemned Cambodia's facilities in our report, King Norodom Sihanouk ordered authorities to mitigate crowding and improve sanitation.
PHR researchers exposed wretched conditions at Shebarghan Prison in Afghanistan that placed more than 3,000 imprisoned ex-combatants in squalor, causing deaths and epidemic illness.
For Health Conditions in Haiti's Prisons, PHR's team gained access to Haitian several prisons and revealed overcrowding, filth, beating and disease.
After years of advocacy by PHR and other organizations, the juvenile death penalty was deemed unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in 2005.