University of Minnesota
Human Rights Program

Human Rights Program.

Human Rights Program


  • 2016 Human Rights Awards, Support, and Internships

    As a part of its commitment to recognizing the achievements of students in human rights, the Human Rights Program is pleased to announce its array of awards, financial support, and internships available for students in 2016. Whether you are an undergraduate, graduate, or professional student, the Human Rights Program is excited to support the work you are doing in promoting human rights:

    Undergraduate Students 

    Funding for Summer Human Rights Internship:

    The Human Rights Program will award two undergraduate students with a stipend of up to $4,000 to complete an internship in human rights for the summer of 2016. Students should have a summer internship confirmed and a proposed schedule and budget before the application deadline of February 26, 2016. 

    Click here to access the application. All materials should be submitted to the Human Rights Program office (214 Social Sciences Building). 

    Children of Incarcerated Caregivers Internship: 

    For a second year, the local non-profit Children of Incarcerated Caregivers is seeking upper-level undergraduates to serve on an interdisciplinary team to research the effects of parental incarceration and advocate for improved policies and programs. The paid internship will run May 30 - July 29, 2016. Successful applicants should have demonstrated research and writing skills and experience in the fields of human rights, sociology, or child development/psychology. Applicants should email their résumé/CV and a cover letter to Rochelle Hammer ( by February 26, 2016.

    More info on the CIC internships.

    6th Annual Human Rights Awards: 

    Each spring, the Human Rights Program and Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota and the Sullivan Ballou Fund celebrate the tremendous work of students in human rights with the Inna Meiman Human Rights Award and the Sullivan Ballou Award. Faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to nominate an undergraduate student who has been truly impressive in their promotion of human rights; self-nominations are also welcome. 

    All applications should include a letter of nomination/recommendation (750 words or less), résumé/CV, and one-page personal statement detailing the nominee’s experience and dedication to human rights work. The deadline is March 22, 2016, and materials should be emailed to Rochelle Hammer ( or delivered to the Program's office (214 Social Sciences Building.) 

    Graduate Students 

      Children of Incarcerated Caregivers Internship: 

    For its second year, the local non-profit Children of Incarcerated Caregivers is looking for graduate and professional students to serve on an interdisciplinary team to research the effects of parental incarceration and advocate for improved policies and programs. The paid ($5,500) internship will run May 30 - July 29, 2016. Successful applicants should have demonstrated research and writing skills and experience in the fields of human rights,  law, public policy, sociology, or child development/psychology or other relevant fields.

    Applicants should email their résumé/CV and a cover letter to Rochelle Hammer ( by February 26, 2016.

    More info on the CIC internships.

    Students of the Human Rights Graduate Minor 

    The Human Rights Program offers support for students pursuing the graduate minor in human rights with a stipend of up to $4,000 for a summer 2016 human-rights-related internship. Current graduate minors are encouraged to apply. Applicants should have a summer internship confirmed by the organization and the DGS and a proposed schedule and budget (including travel or other expenses) in line before the application deadline of February 26, 2016.

     The application form can be accessed here. All materials should be submitted to the Human Rights Program office (214 Social Sciences Building).


    For more information regarding each of the awards, contact the Human Rights Program Coordinator, Rochelle Hammer, at or 612-626-7947.
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  • Children of Incarcerated Caregivers to Broaden its Work on Children, Family in the Criminal Justice System

    Founded just this past year, Children of Incarcerated Caregivers (CIC) is a Minneapolis-based non-profit organization led by a team of local lawyers, scholars, and activists and staffed by a dedicated group of university students. With an initial focus on the relationship between parental incarceration and early childhood development, CIC has expanded its work.

    Originally titled the Prison Nursery Project, the organization was formed by a group of professionals from a wide array of disciplines—including the program’s own director, Barb Frey—united by a single passion: promoting the best interest of families affected by parental incarceration.  Over this past summer, the non-profit’s team of graduate and undergraduate student interns took part in an initial investigative stage to study the impact of prison nurseries, where children are raised by their parent in a prison setting. From their initial findings, the interns recommended that the organization broaden its focus to include research and advocacy related to other aspects of the criminal justice system’s effects on children’s development. Based on this shift of focus, the organization changed its name to better reflect its broader purpose to effect change in local, national, and international communities.

    Significantly, the organization’s researchers have been able to advocate for alternative sentencing options for caregivers facing a prison sentence. CIC research demonstrates that if a child remains with his or her caregiver in an alternative housing option (as opposed to being separated from a caregiver who is sent to prison), the child does much better developmentally and the caregiver is less likely to be a repeat offender. This presents a “win-win” alternative for everyone involved, according to CIC: the child benefits, the caregiver benefits, and the government may benefit from lower costs and reduced future offenses.

    CIC plans to broaden its influence by operating in a network of other local organizations advocating in a similar framework. Through its partnerships, CIC hopes to bring change to the prison system by expanding the range of alternative options available for caregivers and their children, reflecting the most current findings and research.

    This past fall, CIC held an open house on the University of Minnesota campus to present a preliminary report, with great success. As board member Julie Matonich explains, CIC hopes to make this an annual event that may highlight CIC’s accomplishments and increase awareness about important issues that affect families involved with the criminal justice system. For the future, CIC will continue to work with student interns to research other issues, which may include policies on arrests in the presence of children and ways to improve contact between children and their parents who are in prison. With other states—particularly Washington—as a model, CIC is interested in studying and providing recommendations for best practices on how law enforcement handles the arrest of a caregiver when a child is present, and how, with a particular focus on access to visitation and the quality of the contact between the child are caregiver, healthy bonds between imprisoned caregivers and their children can be maintained.   It further hopes to collaborate with experts from across the country and around the globe to share experiences and increase awareness of the impact of parental incarceration.

    We are excited about the progress that Children of Incarcerated Caregivers has made over the past year, and we look forward to what may develop from its work in the future.
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  • Local Activist Helps Craft Legislation Banning Torture

    James V. Roth, a longtime human-rights activist from the Twin Cities and a participant in the University of Minnesota’s November 12 discussion on the federal government’s torture policies, played a key leadership role in crafting the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Signed by President Obama into law on November 25, 2015, the NDAA places a permanent ban on the use of torture by US forces.

    This is the first time that anti-torture language has been included in an annual NDAA. The amendment to the NDAA, the McCain-Feinstein Amendment, was passed early this year with bipartisan support, and it significantly strengthens existing anti-torture legislation—including the Anti-Torture Act of 1994 and the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005—in part by preventing the authorization of any torture program in the future. 

    The NDAA specifies that any person in custody of US forces, which includes the CIA, can be interrogated only through techniques authorized by the US Army Field Manual on Interrogations, which explicitly bans waterboarding, forced nudity, stress positions, sleep deprivation, beatings, forced rectal feedings, and other forms of torture. The UDAA also requires that the Manual be made public, reviewed, and updated regularly to include our best understandings of effect and humane interrogation techniques, and it also requires that the International Committee of the Red Cross be granted access to all detainees under custody of the forces.

    This permanent ban on CIA torture would not have been possible without the commitment of James Roth to fighting for human rights. Roth worked with the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2014 and 2015 to finalize the bill that would later become the McCain-Feinstein Amendment, a later version of the 2013 anti-torture bill he initially drafted to Minnesota’s members of the US Senate and House of Representatives. The initial House version of the NDAA had no comparable amendment regarding stipulations on torture.

    Roth is a retired attorney and member of the Minnesota Peace Project, a group that lobbies Minnesota’s congressional delegation on military and foreign policy matters. He has been affiliated with various local, national, and international human-rights-related groups, including Amnesty International, the Center for Victims of Torture, Advocates for Human Rights, the Constitution Project, and Women against Military Madness.
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Upcoming Events

Human Rights Beat

  • Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden 'black site'

    The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site. The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago's west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights. Continue reading on The Guardian's website.

    March 6th, 2015
  • Amnesty International requests letter signing for Syrian asylum seekers pressured to return

    Reports in the media show that staff at the Manus Island, Papua New Guinea detention centre, run by the Australian Government, are pressuring Syrian asylum seekers to return to Syria where they will be in extreme danger. Read more on the Amnesty International website.

    June 10th, 2014
  • The ICRC releases video on Colombian human rights situation

    It's a crucial time for Colombia with presidential elections slated for this Sunday and ongoing peace talks between the government and FARC guerrillas continuing in Havana, Cuba. In a new Intercross video, the head of the ICRC's delegation in Bogotá, Jordi Raich, says Colombia is at a crossroads -- poised on the verge of economic growth, shrinking poverty, and the potential to put an end to half a century of war. Watch the video on the Intercross website.

    May 28th, 2014
  • US: A Nation Behind Bars

    Far too many US laws violate basic principles of justice by requiring disproportionately severe punishment, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The 36-page report, "Nation Behind Bars: A Human Rights Solution," notes that laws requiring penalties that are far longer than necessary to meet the purposes of punishment have given the United States the world's highest reported rate of incarceration. These laws have spawned widespread and well-founded public doubts about the fairness of the US criminal justice system. Continue reading on the Human Rights Watch website.

    May 7th, 2014

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
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