prison cellYesterday I wrote about the faux outrage of the membership of certain countries to the rather fauxesque “United Nations Humans Rights Council”, noting that the Americans who always need a another reason to vent, just manufactured another, while ignoring their own nation’s drone program.

But maybe while we pat ourselves on the back about how “human rightsy” we are, we could look at a few ugly truths at home too.

At about 12.40pm on 2 January 1996, Timothy Jackson took a jacket from the Maison Blanche department store in New Orleans, draped it over his arm, and walked out of the store without paying for it. When he was accosted by a security guard, Jackson said: “I just needed another jacket, man.”

A few months later Jackson was convicted of shoplifting and sent to Angola prison in Louisiana. That was 16 years ago. Today he is still incarcerated in Angola, and will stay there for the rest of his natural life having been condemned to die in jail. All for the theft of a jacket, worth $159.

Jackson, 53, is one of 3,281 prisoners in America serving life sentences with no chance of parole for non-violent crimes. Some, like him, were given the most extreme punishment short of execution for shoplifting; one was condemned to die in prison for siphoning petrol from a truck; another for stealing tools from a tool shed; yet another for attempting to cash a stolen cheque.

Sadly, no one will be surprised to find out the overwhelming majority of these individuals — the perfect example of individuals deprived of a basic human right, forever — are non-whites.

But hey, we have every self-justified right to criticize everyone else.