According to a new report by the United Nations, prison conditions in the United States represent the “worst version of a racist criminal legal system” that perpetuates slavery to the present day.
According to a new report by the United Nations, prison conditions in the United States represent the “worst version of a racist criminal legal system” that perpetuates slavery to the present day. Credit:

Last Updated on October 10, 2023 by BVN

S. E. Williams

On Oct 3, 2023, a panel appointed by the United Nations (UN) issued a staggering report documenting what it described as “shocking” violations of basic human rights that highlight–not surprisingly–what it defined as “ devastating” racial disparities. The report declared its findings places the criminal justice system in America in a “singular category” on the world stage.

Published September 26, 2023, the report states in part that prison conditions in this country represent the “worst version of a racist criminal legal system” that perpetuates slavery to the present day. 

It  specifically cites certain inhumane practices in U.S. prisons that include actions as wide ranging as   shackling women during childbirth to the use of unpaid forced labor, The panel called these policies  “affront to human dignity.” 

The  investigation was based on visits made by members of the UN panel to prison facilities in Atlanta, Chicago,  Los Minneapolis, New York and Washington, D. C. The visits were made between April and May, 2023. The group also held meetings with civil society groups and a range of government and police authorities. In addition, the results also include testimonies of 133 individuals affected by the inhumane practices. 

“Systemic racism against people of African descent pervades America’s police forces and criminal justice system, and US authorities must urgently step up efforts to reform them.”

UN International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in the Context of Law Enforcement

Sadly, most of the information revealed in the report is not new, including data showing Black people in America are three times more likely to be killed by police than whites, and 4.5 times more likely to be incarcerated.

The report further called America out for the 1,000 cases of officer involved killings each year that result in only 1% of the involved officers ever being charged for the deaths. The panel declared, “If use of force regulations in the US are not reformed in accordance with international standards, many of these killings will continue.”  

Panel member Tracie Keesee stated, “In all the cities we went to, we heard dozens of heart-breaking testimonies on how victims do not get justice or redress. This is not new, and it’s unacceptable.”This is a systemic issue that calls for a systemic response.” 

The report cited the need for alternatives to armed police officers being the “default first responders” to every social issue in the US, ranging from  mental health crises to homelessness, as well as being responsible for things like controlling traffic or discipline at schools. 

It further called for police agencies to address issues of systemic racism against Black law enforcement officers and issues of white supremacy that permeate many sheriff/police departments. 

The panel also cited “profound concern” over Black children being sentenced to life in prison, and as noted above, pregnant women in prison being chained during childbirth and “plantation-style” prisons which constitutes a contemporary form slavery, as well as the travesty of people being held in solitary confinement for up to 10 years.

This shameful findings of this report are as old as conditions endured by Blacks in this country since the birth of this nation, while the reports calls for remedial action have been repeated ad nauseam for nearly as long. And yet, it seems change only occurs around the edges and/or at times of  major upheaval or uprisings that stir the nation’s consciousness.

Certainly, this is not the first time the United Nations has called out the United States of America for its treatment of Blacks in the nation’s prisons and sadly, it probably will not be the last. However, it is always somewhat encouraging to know that Black Americans and other people of color abused by this nation’s  criminal justice process and penal system are not fighting this epic battle for a fair criminal justice process,  alone. 

Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real. 

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. A longtime champion for civil rights and justice in all its forms, she is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. Stephanie has received awards for her investigative reporting and for her weekly column, Keeping it Real. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at