‘Backward Nation’: Report Finds US Has World’s Highest Child Incarceration Rate

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The United States has the highest child incarceration rate in the world, according to a new United Nations report titled the “Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty,” slated to be released Tuesday. Bill Ayers, an activist and educator, joined Sputnik to discuss the US incarceration system.

“First of all, I am actually delighted that you and, I think I, and I hope many of your listeners are still capable of being shocked by this kind of news,” Ayers, who is also the author of the book “Demand the Impossible: A Radical Manifesto,” told Loud & Clear host John Kiriakou on Monday.

“The fact is, anyone who knows anything about the American criminal justice system would understand that we would lead the world not only in the incarceration of children but in incarceration generally. We are a backward nation when it comes to crime and punishment, and we have been for a long time, especially when it comes to the last 40 years,” Ayers explained. 

“The fact is, we lock kids up because we have a culture and criminal justice system that’s based on punitive measures - not on rehabilitation, not on avoidance, not on alternatives. So that’s why it’s not shocking,” Ayers added.

Although the UN report won’t be formally released until Tuesday, its author, Manfred Nowak, a human rights lawyer based in Vienna, discussed the report’s findings on Monday in a press briefing. 

According to Nowak, more than 7 million people under the age of 18 around the world are either in custody or in jail. There are another 333,000 people under the age of 18 being held in immigration detention centers. The statistics reveal that the US detains an average of 60 out of every 100,000 children. By comparison, western Europe incarcerates an average per country of five children out of every 100,000, while Canada incarcerates between an average of 14 to 15 children per 100,000.

Countries like Bolivia, Botswana and Sri Lanka also have some of the world’s highest child incarceration rates, as does Mexico, which has around 18,000 children detained in immigration centers and another 7,000 in prison. In addition, around 29,000 children that have been linked to Daesh fighters are being detained in Iraq and northern Syria.

“The United States is one of the countries with the highest numbers - we still have more than 100,000 children in migration-related detention in the [US],” Nowak said during a news briefing.

“Of course separating children, as was done by the Trump administration, from their parents and even small children at the Mexican-US border is absolutely prohibited by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. I would call it inhuman treatment for both the parents and the children,” he added.

The UN Convention on the Rights of a Child is a human rights treaty aimed toward protecting children that has been ratified by 196 countries. The only nations that have not ratified the treaty are South Sudan, Somalia and the United States.

“What it [child incarceration] violates is the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,” Ayers told Sputnik, adding that it’s “worth noting” that the US has not signed that treaty. 

“Why wouldn't the US sign it? No one knows for sure, except one of the things that was problematic in it is that it disallows child soldiers, it disallows people fighting in the military, and the US still has a policy of young people being drafted into the service,” Ayers speculated

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