Human Rights During a Pandemic


Length: 2,500-2,700 words, not including endnotes and bibliography. 

Paper topic and format:  Topics must be contemporary (recent;  not historical topics like the Armenian genocide or Holocaust). 

You may not write about human rights areas that we have not addressed in the course.

You may write about one specific aspect of a topic you covered in your other assignments or group project, but the paper should not be simply an extension of what you covered in your other assignments.

Topics we covered in class: Right to life [not a prohibition of abortion

Prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Prohibition of slavery and servitude

Freedom of opinion and expression

Right to liberty

Freedom of movement

Freedom to manifest one’s religion

Prohibition of imprisonment for inability to fulfil a contractual obligation

Prohibition against the retrospective operation of criminal laws

Right to recognition before the law

Right to equality and non-discrimination

Right to food

Right to shelter

Right to clean water

Right to healthcare

Format:  You need title for your paper, as well as an introduction and a conclusion;  the body of your paper should be sectioned as appropriate to provide the reader with an understanding of your topic.  To get an idea of how paper should be format, look at any substantive article (not book review or opinion piece) in any academic journal (such as Human Rights Quarterly).

CONTENT/SOURCES:  Your paper should be based on academic sources:  you must have at least 4 academic sources that are directly relevant to your topic.  You may refer to course readings and include them in your bibliography, but they do not count towards these required 4 sources. 

Academic sources include peer-reviewed journal articles and books by university and academic presses such as Routledge, Taylor and Francis, Blackwell, Palgrave, Pearson.  (Please contact me if unsure.) You may supplement with non-academic sources (from the course library resource website for suggested sources, not other sources) but these should not be the main sources of your paper’s content.  Please contact me with links and full citation of other sources that you find or if you’d like to discuss a topic to research.


Content is 80% of the grade

A good paper is based on good research, so you need sufficient and appropriate sources (see syllabus regarding minimum number of sources).

Always address your paper topic and be precise about it. Omit any information or points that are not relevant to the topic.

Assignments are for you to demonstrate your knowledge. Don’t assume I know what you are talking about, so write with the assumption that the reader has no knowledge of the subject:  provide adequate explanations of your statements.

Avoid redundancies.

The terms “human rights,” “humanitarian(ism),” and “democracy” have different meanings, so are not to be used interchangeably.

Detail is important

Be specific about the timeframe, dates of events/documents, etc. who are the actors and what is the thinking behind their choices/actions what is happening in the period that influences the actors’ choices, etc.

Provide explanation rather than directly criticize/opine:  you will be more convincing —   For example, avoid subjective statements like “President Dodo put US national interest above human rights”; instead provide explanation: “President Dodo regarded <this factor> and <that factor>/was concerned about <whatever>, and therefore chose to abandon the human rights provisions and instead adopted a policy to <whatever: explain as necessary>. <Describe effect on the relevant human rights or response of relevant human rights advocates or whatever may be the case>”

The other 20% is on technical aspects of your paper:  writing style (academic) and organization.

Papers should be written in your own words.  I prefer and suggest that you do NOT quote from any text, because most of the time it is not appropriate to quote.

If you are certain that it is appropriate to quote and do so, you need to include precise source (not just the author and year, but also the page number, as well as where the quote is from). Look up how to do this correctly.  Typically, whatever you quote does NOT speak for itself.

Avoid “fluff”

That is filler sentences that do not help demonstrate knowledge of the topic, but you throw in just to meet the minimum length: these annoy the reader, so your grade will suffer. NEVER write a sentence starting with “Since the beginning of time/US history/etc.” = sounds like a fairy tale.

Avoid passive tense because such statements omit critical information.  For example, NOT “the policy was criticized for …” (does not say who criticized and thus understand that party’s perspective), instead: “The adoption agency criticized the policy because …”

Do NOT capitalize words like “human rights.”

Only capitalize words at the beginning of a sentence or words when they are part of a proper noun or formal title of an organization (like Human Rights Watch), etc.

Know what is appropriate to include in a paragraph.

Watch grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Cite properly and correctly. 

The political science discipline uses a specific format (Links to an external site.), but you may use the format that you are comfortable with from among these: (Links to an external site.)

Do NOT include anything in the text of your paper except the author’s surname and year of the publication, where appropriate.

Do NOT include the title/position of the author or title of the author’s work referenced in the text of your paper. All in-text citations need a year after the author’s surname. You may also use footnotes or endnotes (depending on the citation format you use), but do so properly: consult the guidelines of the citation format that you are following.

Lastly:  “US” vs “United States” vs “America(n)”

Use “the United States” instead of “America” (noun).

On the other hand, “US” and “American” may both be used as adjectives. (For example: “US foreign policy” or “American foreign policy” are both OK.)

“US” should only be used as an adjective. The noun must be spelled out: “the United States.”


Human Rights During a Pandemic

Despite the efforts to prevent more cases of COVID-19 in Riker’s Island, the cases had risen to more than 200 within two weeks after the first case in March 2020 (Novisky et al., 2020). Similarly, by early April 2020, about 300 incarcerated individuals and staff members tested positive for COVID-19 at the Cook County Jail in Chicago (Novisky et al., 2020). The virus was spreading rapidly, and many other local and state carceral facilities across the United States reported cases of the virus and related deaths. Thus during the first wave of COVID-19, it spread fast behind closed doors and barbed wire, particularly in prisons, jails, and immigration detention centers. As of May 1, 2020, at least 1500 people had tested positive, and 30 people had died of the virus while incarcerated in federal prisons, and 450 had tested positive of the virus while in immigration detention (Erfani et al., 2021). Regarding the diagnosed cases in immigration detention, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had only tested 990 people out of approximately 23000 people, implying many undiagnosed cases in this population. Previous viral epidemics have greatly affected correctional facilities. For instance, according to Franco-Paredes et al. (2020), during the spread of the Spanish Influenza of 1918, about 900 inmates in San Quentin prison were infected during the first wave, with sick calls increasing from 200 to 700 every day. Also, since the hospital ward was fully occupied, most of the sick inmates stayed in the general prison population, contrary to protocol. At present, prisons, jails, and immigration detention facilities are usually crowded. During a pandemic, the government should protect the right to health of incarcerated or detained individuals because due to their detention situation, they cannot adhere to the measures and guidelines issued by health experts to curb and contain a viral epidemic.  

Besides being a policy question, this is an issue on human rights. Every human being, including prisoners and immigrants in detention, has certain unalienable rights internationally acknowledged. In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that recognized that the right to health is a right (Saul et al., 2014). Later, it adopted the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESR), which states that prisoner has a right to highest attainable mental and physical health (Saul et al., 2014). This convection also obligates states to take necessary measures and steps needed to protect people during the prevention treatment and control during a pandemic where this right to health extends to incarcerated individuals and immigrants in detention. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is another covenant that provides that people who have been deprived of their liberty, such as those in incarceration or detention, should be treated with respect and humanity related to the dignity of a human being (Saul et al., 2014). The United States is a party of this covenant, and the US Supreme Court also states that the conditions such as the fast spread of communicable diseases that unreasonably harm or put individuals in incarceration or detention at risk are a violation of the prohibition against unusual and cruel punishment issued by the Eighth Amendment. 

According to Lines (2008), incarcerated persons and detained immigrants cannot help themselves in detention; thus, the government is obligated to provide them with a healthy environment and the health services needed. Human rights instruments advocate for health care to prisoners similar to that available to the population outside carceral facilities. Moreover, they advocate for equivalence rather than equity because these facilities are closed institutions with a custodial role that restricts care provision similar to that on the outside. Furthermore, there is a higher likelihood of prisoners and immigrants being in a bad health state before incarceration or detention, and the unfavorable conditions in carceral facilities make these health states even worse. Thus, they have a greater need for health care and treatments than the outside population (Lines, 2006). Despite these needs, many countries face extreme difficulties in providing even basic health care to detained people. The basic rights of incarcerated people and immigrants in detention, particularly the right to health, mandates every government to take comprehensive and immediate action to protect them during a pandemic like the COVID-19 pandemic (Lines, 2008). However, many incarcerated and detained individuals’ health is always at greater risk during a pandemic due to the conditions in carceral settings …………for help with this assignment contact us via Email Address:

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