Justice for all in the land of the free?

A global outlier in criminal justice, the US undermines itself on the world stage when it engages in human rights abuses

On this day 69 years ago the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, sketching the foundation of human rights law. Led by Eleanor Roosevelt, the United States played a critical role in bringing 48 nations together to enumerate a set of core individual rights and freedoms that we all reference to this day.

Unfortunately today the US struggles to live up to these ideals it helped create. The punitive nature of American criminal justice deserves international censure. The US has emerged as the global capital of mass incarceration, and its sentencing laws must be examined.

Although it calls itself the "land of the free," the US maintains a draconian sentencing scheme, sending more people to prison than any other nation. While it touts its own human rights record and lectures other nations on their human rights shortcomings, its voracious appetite for life sentences without parole is an embarrassment that fails to live up to the lofty rhetoric of the US Constitution, and falls far short of international standards.

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