Human Rights Program
Graduate Student Engages in Policy, Advocacy for International Human Rights through Center for Victims of Torture
This summer, through a partnership between the Humphrey School and the Center for Victims of Torture, I was fortunate enough to serve as the public policy intern in CVT’s policy office located in Washington DC. As a Master’s in Public Policy candidate and a minor in Human Rights student, this opportunity was an excellent way to fulfill my internship requirement for both programs and served as a way to get to know the work and policy efforts of this well-known and respected human rights organization even better. Growing up in Minneapolis and being interested in the field of human rights, I had heard about the great work that the Center or Victims of Torture is doing here in the Twin Cities as well as abroad through their programs both Africa and the Middle East. Learning more about this organization and its work in healing, training, advocacy, and research was a great personal and professional experience.
While interning for the Policy Office of CVT located in Washington, DC over this past summer, I worked on a few different projects. The first was assisting CVT in the coordination of its annual Eclipse Award presentation and event. The Eclipse award is presented each year to an individual or organization that has played a crucial role in ending torture or in the treatment of torture survivors. For 2016, the award was presented to Juan Méndez, the current UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, in recognition of his devotion to the preservation of human rights, the prevention of torture, and the rehabilitation of survivors. As part of the award presentation and event, I was able to attend a meeting of CVT’s board of directors, a meeting of CVT’s national advisory council and hear Juan Mendez speak on current issues of torture today.
Overall, through this experience I was able to learn more about the policy and advocacy efforts of international human rights organizations such as the Center for Victims of Torture and how important the work of CVT is within the field of torture awareness and prevention as well as survivor healing. I learned a great deal about the network of organizations that work on torture, refugee, and asylum issues, both in DC and in other places within the US and abroad, as well as their various niches and the ways in which they can effectively collaborate. Lastly, I was able to gain experience in research, my primary goal for the internship, as well as a greater understanding of my interests and the issues I care about within the field of human rights work. The experience was invaluable and I feel very fortunate that I was able to have the chance to work for such an excellent organization within the field of human rights work.
In addition to this coordination and logistics project, I worked on a few other research projects for the organization. The first was research regarding the rhetoric of torture and more specifically the gathering of statements and remarks made regarding torture and enhanced interrogation techniques by prominent individuals in the United States over the past year. I also completed research on case examples where perpetrators of torture were held accountable and charged with the crime of torture. Lastly, I completed research of the Right to Rehabilitation discussed in Article 14 of the Convention Against Torture as well as the CAT Committee General Comment No. 3. The results of my research were compiled into reports or fact sheets for general use by the organization.
Written by Alexandra Sevett, Master of Public Policy student, Humphrey School of Public Affairs and Interdisciplinary Graduate Minor in Human Rights
Students Engage in Discussion on Sustainability, Responsible Waste Management with University and Public Officials
On Thursday, November 3 2016, Sustainability Education hosted their 7th Annual Sustainability Film Series, with this year’s feature film being “Trashed” by Candida Brady. Before the screening, Sean Connaughty, a professor of art at the University of Minnesota, accompanied by a student representative of the Weisman Art Museum presented their research on trash development around campus. Through collecting and tracing the origin of garbage from the east and west banks of the Mississippi river on campus, Sean and his group of students were able to find the largest sources of garbage in our area and addressed it through an art project that is still available for viewing outside the Weisman.
Additionally, Kelly Kish, the city of Minneapolis’ Recycling Coordinator discussed the city’s new zero waste plan and how students can actively help in reducing their carbon footprint through mindful consumption, reusing plastic, and composting organic food waste.
The film itself was about global effects of careless disposal of waste and how everyone can be a part of reversing the damage we have done to our planet. After the film, a Q&A session was held with Chris Goodwin from from Eureka Recycling; Frank Hornstein, a Minnesota State Representative and sponsor of zero waste legislation; and Erin Stevenson, U of M Recycling Coordinator at the Waste Management Program. The panelists answered questions about local actions to help clean up our environment, and took suggestions from students and audience members about how to make recycling and composting more accessible.
Co-sponsored by the Human Rights Program Student Advisory Board, the Sustainability Film Series is an event designed to educate students and faculty about environmental issues that affect everyone and about how to protect resources in nature for generations to come.
-Written by Selma Demirovich
UMN Interns spark policy direction for Children of Incarcerated Caregivers
The Human Rights Program partners with a new non-profit, Children of Incarcerated Caregivers (CIC) to provide unique research focused internship opportunities to advanced undergraduate and graduate students. CIC is a Minneapolis-based non-profit devoted to local, national, and international issues as they pertain to the wellbeing of children whose parents become incarcerated. On top of this important issue CIC is devoted to giving students a unique opportunity to do in-depth research, network, and advocate for real policy change.
The first group of CIC interns, of which I was a part in summer 2015, started their summer research focusing on prison nurseries. In fact, at that time the name of the organization was the “Prison Nursery Project.” While when a parent becomes incarcerated here in the United States it is customary for the parent to be separated from their child but this is not the norm internationally. In most of the world young children typically accompany their mothers to prison. Our summer research uncovered the ways in which this practice can be potentially positive or deleterious for such children. However, as we learned about prison nurseries we also realized that perhaps the scope of our research was too narrow for an organization focused on the wellbeing of children. At this point we expanded our scope to look at the consequences of parental incarceration when separation occurs, as well as different alternatives besides prison nurseries. Hence, Prison Nursery Project changed its name to Children of Incarcerated Caregivers.
While much of CIC’s work is focused on U.S.-based issues, the organization also recognizes the value of a global perspective. CIC realizes that its dedication to human rights requires us not to remain ethnocentric, for we can learn much about both best and worst practices from looking to other countries. The experience of working with CIC has been exciting for me because of this global perspective as well as the opportunity to work autonomously, with guidance from the diverse and accomplished CIC board. Working with an organization through which I might be able to contribute to real changes in law and policy add even further to the experience. In the end, my cohort of student interns produced two separate reports, one focusing on the domestic issues of parental incarceration and the costs and benefits of existing alternatives. The second took a global approach and looked at prison nurseries around the world.
In the summer of 2016 the second group of CIC interns began their internship with the intention of investigating the quality of visits between children and their incarcerated caregivers throughout the state. Just as my intern cohort did, the second group of interns was able to redirect the focus of their research based on their initial findings when they discovered a more pressing concern—how cumbersome the process of figuring out the logistics of visiting a parent might be. Thus the interns shifted focus, with two interns producing a report which analyzed the current state of visitation information on the websites of Minnesota jails and prisons. True to CIC’s commitment to an international perspective, a second set of interns also researched innovative visitation programs in other countries with the hope that we might be able to bring some of the most successful of these novel approaches into our own prisons and jails.
The CIC internship program provides students with a unique experience getting to do autonomous research, produce reports, network with community leaders, and have a real impact on policy change. I am so glad to have had the opportunity to be a part of this partnership!
-Written by Veronica Horowitz
Top picture: Veronica Horowitz
Bottom picture: 2016 CIC Interns Amy Cosimini, Dagmara Franczak, Damir Utržan, and Claire Hepworth (Not pictured: Brian Wilson).
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External Human Rights Events
Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop Public Reading Organized by Human Rights Scribe
On Saturday, October 24th, the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop (MPWW) will hold a reading at Hamline University. The reading, organized by MFA candidate Mike Alberti as part of the Scribe for Human Rights Fellowship, will feature the work of several writers currently incarcerated in Minnesota state correctional facilities. MPWW instructors will read pieces of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction on behalf of their students, and two formerly incarcerated alumni of MPWW classes will read their own work aloud for the first time.
This is a free reading, open to the public, so please come and invite a friend. A short Q&A and informal discussion will follow. Plus, there will be snacks! It’s sure to be a very powerful evening. We hope you can make it!
Where: Hamline University,
Klas Center, Kay Fredericks Room
1537 Taylor Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55104
When: Saturday, October 24th, 2015, 7:00 PM
To learn more about MPWW and their work, please visit http://www.mnprisonwriting.org/
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