People from ethnic and religious minority populations continue to come into conflict with the law and be imprisoned at a higher rate than majority populations in many countries, constituting up to 50% of national prison populations.
From country specific data, it remains clear that people belonging to national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities face discrimination – and sometimes overt violence at the hands of authorities – at all stages of the criminal justice systems.
Ethnic minorities often face a greater likelihood of a prison sentence, longer terms of imprisonment and the imposition of the death penalty whether through intentional prejudice or indirect discrimination. For instance, there are racial disparities in the application of drug policies in several countries, affecting minority groups disproportionately. Such treatment in criminal justice systems often reflects the social and economic exclusion of such groups.
The exercise of police powers on the basis of racial or ethnic profiling leads to excessive arrests and human rights violations. Excessive use of force by police, torture or other ill-treatment in detention and the lack of a prompt and impartial investigations are common human rights violations experienced by people belonging to ethnic and religious minority groups.
Prisons may fail to respect the standards of religious and cultural practices of religious minorities, causing additional suffering and punishment. This form of punishment is discriminatory, and a violation of the principle of equality under the law.
Poor and socially excluded populations