Panel Discusses Prisoners' Rights

Members of Amnesty International groups from campuses around Boston gathered in Sever Hall last night to launch the organization's first international campaign on human rights violations in the United States.

During the meeting the student activists listened to a panel of professional legal rights advocates who emphasized the egregious abuses of fundamental rights within America's prisons and criminal justice system.

"Prisoners have no rights in Massachusetts or anywhere else in the U.S.," said Kazi Toure, a panelist from the American Friends Service Committee, an organization that monitors prison conditions across the country.

The evening began with a presentation on U.S. human rights abuses given by Joshua M. Rubenstein, the northeast regional director of Amnesty International USA, an associate at the Davis Center for Russian Studies and the moderator of last night's event.

Rubenstein made specific reference to a report released by Amnesty International on Oct. 6.


"The time has come to assemble in one report a certain category of residents in the U.S.--victims of police brutality, those seeking political asylum and women prisoners--who are not entitled to the same rights as all other people," Rubenstein said.

A 20-minute video presentation entitled "Rights for All: Amnesty International's Campaign on the USA," followed Rubenstein's opening remarks.

The video elaborated upon such human rights abuses as violations in prisons and jails, detention of asylum seekers, the death penalty and excessive police brutality.

Among the other speakers were Lisa M. Otero, staff attorney for Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services and director of the Massachusetts HIV in Prison Project, and Hugo A. Bedau, professor of philosophy at Tufts University.

Rebecca Feldman, staff attorney for the Boston College Immigration and Asylum Project and Catholic Legal Immigration Network, spoke about her work with asylum seekers in detention in local prisons.

Kazi Toure, staff member of the American Friends Service Committee and a former political prisoner, discussed prisoner rights in Massachusetts.