Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Event 12/6: Prof. Tendayi Achiume Speaks in Honor of Human Rights Day

On December 6, 2022, from 12-1pm ET, please join Northeastern University School of Law, the Bringing Human Rights Home Lawyers’ Network and Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE) for an event featuring speaker Professor Tendayi Achiume. Professor Achiume will reflect on her time a U.N. Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. This event will be sure to provide a lot of insights for U.S. advocates on working with Special Rapporteurs.

Register for the virtual event here.

November 22, 2022 in Race, United Nations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 21, 2022

New Article: (G)local Intersectionality

Martha F. Davis, (G)local Intersectionality, 79 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 1021 (2022). Abstract below.

Intersectionality theory has been slow to take root as a legal norm at the national level, even as scholars embrace it as a potent analytical tool. Yet, in recent years, intersectionality has entered law and policy practices through an unexpected portal: namely, local governments’ adoption of international norms. A growing number of local governments around the world explicitly incorporate intersectionality into their law and practice as part of implementing international antidiscrimination norms from human rights instruments like the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

This “relocalization” phenomenon—which brings intersectionality back to its roots in domestic law—is visible in many parts of the world. In Europe, cities in Spain proactively integrate intersectional approaches into their local human rights regimes. Outside of Europe, Montréal applies an intersectional analysis under its Charter of Rights and Responsibilities, a local governance document grounded in the values of fundamental human rights and dignity. Human rights cities like Gwangju, Korea, embrace intersectionality as a programmatic imperative. In the United States, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and Cincinnati, among others, incorporated intersectional approaches to nondiscrimination in the wake of adopting local CEDAWs.

The relocalization process is not always straightforward. Challenges include the difficulties of reconciling local intersectional approaches with national laws that may not recognize intersectionality, and developing indicators tailored to local experiences. On the other hand, local adoption of intersectionality opens up robust possibilities for participation in communities’ legal and political processes, which many local governments emphasize.

November 21, 2022 in Books and articles, CEDAW, CERD, Martha F. Davis | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Addressing Hunger through Human Rights

R.-Denisse-Cordova_headshot2   LawHeadshot

By: R. Denisse Córdova Montes, Acting Associate Director & Mackenzie Steele, Student Intern, Human Rights Clinic, University of Miami School of Law

Hunger in the United States is not the result of a lack of enough food, but the result of laws and policies that prioritize profits over people and their human rights. During National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, we urge the adoption of a human rights approach to addressing hunger in the United Staes.

Food insecurity, which is defined as a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food, affects around 11% of U.S. households every year. In 2021, 3.8% of households, or 5.1 million households, had very low food security, meaning that their eating patterns were repeatedly disrupted resulting in a consistent state of hunger. Put more simply, food-insecure households are forced to make impossible decisions, such as choosing between paying for food and heat, electricity, rent, and transportation, with dire impacts on their health and overall wellbeing.

Notably, food insecurity has a disparate impact by race. 21.7% of Black households and about 17.2% of Latinx households experienced food insecurity in 2020, compared to only 7.1% of white households. One in four Indigenous persons experience food insecurity, compared to one in eight of Americans overall. Eight out of 10 essential Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) workers faced food insecurity during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, compared to only five in 10 white essential workers.

Racial disparities in food insecurity stem from the U.S.’s long history of racial discrimination. BIPOC communities have historically faced structural barriers to land ownership, which are intrinsically tied to their ability to produce food and feed themselves and their families. For example, the Homestead Act of 1862, which encouraged the development of the American West, had detrimental effects on tribal nations and their ability to exercise food sovereignty in their territories. Throughout the 20th century, USDA racist policies have disenfranchised Black farmers. In 1920, Black farmers owned over 16 million acres of land, yet, today, Black farmers only own two million acres of land.

Food insecurity also stems from corporate control of the food system. Bill and Melinda Gates are the largest private owners of farmland in the U.S. with some 269,000 acres across dozens of states. Today, four companies (Bayer, Corteva, ChemChina, and Limagrain) control more than 50% of the world’s seed market. The corporate capture of the food system has resulted in consistently low wages for food workers, natural resource extraction affecting Indigenous communities and low-scale food producers, and inadequate diets leading to negative health outcomes for BIPOC communities.  

Moreover, the U.S.’s focus on federal nutrition assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to address hunger has failed to adequately address the root causes of hunger. Outside of these programs, the U.S. focuses on a charity-based model, relying on donations and food banks to feed those in need, and in turn, reinforcing hierarchical structures and failing to address the root causes of the problems causing food insecurity.

This past summer, our Human Rights Clinic supported a nascent coalition of food justice advocates, legislators, and people with lived experiences of hunger, including West Virginia University’s Center for Resilient Communities, WhyHunger, Food for Maine’s Future, EDFU Foundation, Grow with the Flow, LLC, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and the Agroecology Research-Action Collective, in advocacy before the U.N. Committee to End Racial Discrimination (CERD), as it reviewed the U.S. for compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). This included submission of a shadow report on Racial Injustice and Violations of the Human Right to Food in the U.S., development of a factsheet, and discussions with CERD and U.S. delegation members.

The hard work paid off when CERD’s Concluding Observations addressed the right to food in a recommendation to the U.S. for the first time. CERD recommended that the U.S. “take all necessary measures to guarantee the right to adequate food, to strengthen its efforts to combat hunger and food insecurity, which disproportionally affects racial and ethnic minorities, and especially women and children, including by strengthening the institutional framework and adopting a comprehensive and rights-based national plan to end hunger. The Committee then called on the U.S. “to take effective measures against hunger in consultation with all relevant stakeholders, including members of the communities most affected by food insecurity.”

Following the release of CERD’s Concluding Observations, our Clinic supported a satellite event linked to the September White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health focused on disseminating and discussing what the U.N. recommendations could mean for a national plan to end hunger. The discussions called for a transformation of the food system through the rebuilding of local food and farm economies and transformation of neighborhood institutions into community spaces that support the development of nourishing food systems. Our Human Rights Clinic will continue promoting the implementation of a rights-based approach to hunger through its support of a growing right to food movement in the U.S. that perceives the tackling of racism in the U.S. food system as a precondition for the realization of the right to food for all.

To learn more about this growing movement and be part of the discussion, join us in Miami on April 13 and 14 at the Food, Housing, and Racial Justice Symposium!

November 17, 2022 in CERD | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 14, 2022

Addressing Homelessness through Housing not Handcuffs

  _TE Headshot  Taylor Headshot 2022-2

By: Tamar Ezer, Acting Director, & Taylor Moore, Student Fellow, Human Rights Clinic, University of Miami School of Law 

As we mark the beginning of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, we urge a focus on real solutions to end hunger and homelessness.

In the United States, instead of addressing homelessness, many of our municipalities have sought to make it invisible by criminalizing activities people experiencing homelessness must engage in to stay alive, such as sleeping, sitting, or eating. According to a 2019 survey of 187 cities, 55% have laws prohibiting sitting and or lying down in public; 72% have laws prohibiting camping in public places; and 60% laws prohibiting loitering, loafing, and vagrancy.

Moreover, criminalization is on the rise, and laws that prohibit sleeping in public have increased by 50% since 2006! In the past two years, the City of Miami, where we live, has passed ordinances criminalizing encampments on public property and food sharing without a permit and at non-designated locations. Amidst the devastation of COVID, the City has thus resorted to "hunger as a weapon against the poor."

Criminalization is counterproductive and costly. It results in fines people cannot pay, jail time, and criminal records, trapping people in a cycle of poverty and perpetuating homelessness. In fact, diverting resources to law enforcement can cost two to three times more than it would to provide affordable housing. As one of our partners, David Peery, the Executive Director of the Miami Coalition to Advance Racial Equity (MCARE) describes, “Criminalization is an expensive way to make homelessness worse.”

Moreover, criminalization of homelessness has a disparate impact by race. Black Americans make up 40% of the U.S. homeless population, while only 13% of the overall population. Additionally, laws criminalizing life sustaining activities are predominantly enforced against people of color. As the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Racism has noted, “The enforcement of minor law enforcement violations . . . take a disproportionately high number of African American homeless persons to the criminal justice system.”

Current disparities in housing and homelessness stem from a long history of discrimination, including redlining when the U.S. Federal Housing Administration refused to insure mortgages in or near Black neighborhoods. Today, while almost 75% of white families own their homes, less than half of Black families own their homes. As renters, Black families are at greater risk of housing instability and homelessness. Additionally, Black and Hispanic renters are twice as likely to be evicted as white renters. Barriers to housing based on arrest records further have a disparate impact by race.

Our Human Rights Clinic had the opportunity to support a coalition, including MCARE, the National Homelessness Law Center (NHLC), the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC), Partners for Dignity and Rights, and the South Florida Community Development Coalition, in advocacy before the U.N. Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), as it reviewed the U.S. for compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). This included submission of a shadow report on Racial Injustice in Housing and Homelessness, development of a factsheet, and discussions with CERD and U.S. delegation members.

This summer, CERD released its Concluding Observations and noted with concern “the increasing number of state and local laws that criminalize homelessness and . . . the disproportionately high number of persons belonging to racial and ethnic minorities affected by homelessness.” The Committee then called on the U.S. government to “abolish laws and policies that criminalize homelessness,” redirect “funding from criminal justice responses to adequate housing and shelter programs, in particular for persons belonging to racial and ethnic minorities most affected by homelessness,” and “affirmatively further fair housing and protection against discriminatory effects.”

Moreover, CERD addressed the right to food in a recommendation to the U.S. for the first time and called for the adoption of a “rights-based national plan to end hunger in consultation with members of the communities most affected by hunger.”

Now is the time to focus on domestic implementation of these recommendations. Take the opportunity this week to get involved in your community and help address hunger and homelessness. Our Human Rights Clinic will be participating in NHLC’s Right to Housing Forum and sharing preliminary findings from a Report Card, assessing U.S. performance on the right to housing. Let’s make the U.S a place where everyone can access adequate housing and feed themselves with dignity.

November 14, 2022 in CERD, Homelessness | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 11, 2022

New Publication: ABA Human Rights Magazine: Economics of Voting Rights

American Bar Association Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, Human Rights Magazine: Economics of Voting Rights, Vol. 48, No. 1 (October 2022). Excerpt from introduction and featured articles below.


Juan R. Thomas - “My theme as chair of the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice for the 2022–23 bar year is economic justice. I believe that a civil rights agenda without an economic agenda is like clapping with one hand. As the 2022 midterm election approaches, it is particularly timely to focus our attention on the economics of voting rights and the role money plays in our body politic. I want to sincerely thank the authors of this edition of Human Rights magazine for helping me realize my vision of economic justice in the context of voting rights.”

Featured Articles

To read more and access other articles in this issue of the ABA’s Human Rights Magazine, click here.

November 11, 2022 in Books and articles | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 4, 2022

Event 11/16: Work Law as Privatized Public Law Series: On Critical Wage Theory


On November 16, 2022, at 12:45pm ET, join Brooklyn Law in person or online for panel of organizers and schools exploring the crosscurrents in contemporary organizing and the future of public/private tensions in work law.


  • Prof. Ruben Garcia (UNLV, author of Critical Wage Theory (forthcoming 2023))
  • Bethany Khan (Culinary Workers Union)
  • Prof. Shirley Lin (Brooklyn Law School, Moderator)*
  • Yanin Peña (Ain't I A Woman?! Campaign)*
  • Chris Smalls (Amazon Labor Union)*

*Appearing in-person

Location: Hybrid Event 

  • Brooklyn Law School, Moot Court Room
  • 250 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, and Zoom


  • BLS Labor and Employment Law Association, LALSA, BLSA, APALSA, SALSA, DALSA, Law Association of Women, Brooklyn Law Students for the Public Interest, Women of Color Alliance, NLG.

For more information and to register, click here.

November 4, 2022 in Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 3, 2022

New Article: Certain Prosecutors: Geographical Arbitrariness, Unusualness, & the Abolition of Virginia’s Death Penalty

Bernadette M. Donovan, Certain Prosecutors: Geographical Arbitrariness, Unusualness, & the Abolition of Virginia’s Death Penalty, Washington and Lee Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice, Vol. 29, Issue 1, Fall 2022. Abstract below.

Virginia’s abolition of the death penalty in 2021 was a historic development. As both a southern state and one of the country’s most active death penalty jurisdictions, Virginia’s transition away from capital punishment represented an important shift in the national landscape. This article considers whether that shift has any constitutional significance, focusing on the effect of Virginia’s abolition on the geographical arbitrariness of the country’s death penalty.

As a starting point, the death penalty in America is primarily regulated by the Eighth Amendment, which bars “cruel and unusual punishments.” The United States Supreme Court has held that the death penalty is not per se unconstitutional, but that the Eighth Amendment constrains its application. In particular, modern death penalty law is concerned with the arbitrary or unusual infliction of the death penalty. Since 2015, the concept of “geographical arbitrariness”—that the death penalty’s localization could render it so random or rare as to be unconstitutional—has gained increased attention.

This Article examines whether and how Virginia’s abolition contributes to the geographical arbitrariness of capital punishment in America. The Article finds that Virginia’s experience demonstrates the geographical arbitrariness of the contemporary death penalty in two important ways. First, this Article examines the localization of capital sentencing within Virginia. Capital sentencing and execution data show that as Virginia’s death penalty declined, the practice was kept alive by a small minority of prosecutors who had an unusual passion for death sentencing. In its latter years, Virginia’s death penalty thus increasingly reflected the unfettered discretion of local decisionmakers. Second, this Article considers how Virginia’s abolition affected the national landscape of the death penalty. The Article concludes that both quantitively and qualitatively, the end of Virginia’s death penalty supports a conclusion that capital punishment has become too arbitrary to be constitutional.

November 3, 2022 in Books and articles, Criminal Justice | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Event 11/10: University of Miami Symposium on Food, Housing, and Racial Justice in the United States.

On November 10, 2022, the Human Rights Clinic and Program at the University of Miami School of Law, in collaboration with the Human Rights Society at the University of Miami School of Law, the National Right to Food Community of Practice, West Virginia University Center for Resilient Communities, and WhyHunger, present a Symposium on Food, Housing, and Racial Justice in the United States.

Deep reflection, innovative thinking, and joint strategizing with regards to hunger and food equity that put the needs and interests of communities of color at the center is urgent. The event will focus on human rights and racialized approaches to addressing hunger and related economic and social rights violations.

Drawing on efforts from Miami to cities and states around the U.S., the event will discuss:

  • Food insecurity
  • Food system governance
  • Access to land and housing
  • Role of local, state, and federal governments
  • Implementation of United Nations’ recommendations

This event will take place in person and will be available virtually from 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM EST, at the University of Miami School of Law. To register, visit here.  

November 1, 2022 in Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 27, 2022

November 2022-December 2022 Deadlines: Calls for Inputs by UN Human Rights Mechanisms

The following calls for inputs have been issued by UN Human Rights Mechanisms with deadlines in November-December 2022 and law professors whose practice, research, and/or scholarship touches on these topics may be interested in submission:

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Call for inputs on the protection of the human rights of persons living with rare diseases and their families and careers. Deadline November 1, 2022. Read more.

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change – Call for inputs for report on addressing the human rights implications of climate change displacement including legal protection of people displaced across international borders. Deadline November 11, 2022. Read more.

Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health – Call for Inputs on digital innovation, technologies and the right to health. Deadline November 15, 2022. Read more.

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography and other child sexual abuse – Call for inputs on reparations for child victims and survivors of sale and sexual exploitation. Deadline November 19, 2022. Read more.

Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights – Call for inputs for a report on cultural rights and migration. Deadline November 25, 2022. Read more.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights – Call for inputs for report on the adverse impact of climate change on the right to food. Deadline December 9, 2022. Read more.

Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development – Call for Inputs for thematic studies of the Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development. Deadline December 30, 2022. Read more.

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism – Call for Inputs for Global Study on the Impact of Counter-Terrorism Measures on Civil Society and Civic Space. Deadline December 31, 2022. Read more.

This information was compiled from https://www.ohchr.org/en/calls-for-input-listing.

October 27, 2022 in United Nations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

New Articles: University of Miami International and Comparative Law Review 2021 Symposium on International Law & COVID-19

The University of Miami International and Comparative Law Review has published it's symposium issue on International Law & COVID-19.  The articles are now also available on the 2021 International Law & COVID-19 Symposium website, along with videos from the various symposium sessions.  The special issue of the Law Review includes a synopsis report from the symposium, a piece on international regulation and epidemics, an article on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ response to COVID-19, and an article on the duty to protect survivors of gender-based violence in the context of COVID-19, along with a few others. 

October 25, 2022 in Books and articles | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Imagine a Day Without Water 2022

From Martha F. Davis, Co-Editor.
Today is the annual "Imagine a Day Without Water" Day of Action.
To promote greater attention to water affordability and the human right to water for ALL, Northeastern Law School's Program on Human Rights and the Economy has today issued a Briefing Paper: How Five Creative Water Utilities Are Assisting “Hard-to-Reach” Renters as Water Rates Rise.
Rising water prices nationwide affect everyone, but the impact on renters is often obscured and forgotten, as they often pay for water prices through rent increases.  Ostensibly neutral on its face, the targeting of water assistance to homeowners is an example of structural racism, since the racial housing gap, the history of redlining and other instances of race-based housing discrimination means that people of color are disproportionately renters.
A handful of water utilities around the country have prioritized the assistance to renters, taking different approaches to the problem of assisting water consumers who are not themselves paying water bills. This Briefing Paper highlights the mechanisms adopted by these utilities, in hopes of spreading the word that there are viable approaches to increasing water equity for renters.

October 20, 2022 in Books and articles, Water | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Event 11/1: Can the United Nations Solve Racism? Symposium on the Global Anti-Racism Architecture of the UN

On Tuesday, November 1, 2022, from 5:30 – 7:30pm EST, join Fordham University School of Law’s Center on Race, Law, & Justice and Leitner Center for International Law and Justice for a discussion and reflection on the United Nations General Assembly’s session addressing racial discrimination, which will take place the day before. This event will be moderated by Gay McDougall, and the distinguished panelists include E. Tendayi Achiume, Gaynell Curry, Dominique Day, Justin Hansford, Justice Yvonne Mogkoro, and Verene Shepherd. The panelists will discuss anti-racism mechanisms of the UN and reflect on the new anti-racism architecture of the UN human rights system. Attendance for the event is available both in-person in Fordham Law’s McNally Amphitheater and online via Zoom Webinar.

To register for this event, click here.

October 18, 2022 in Discrimination, Global Human Rights, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 15, 2022

More on Juvenile Sentencing and the Case of Adnan Syed

Barlett_crawfordLauren E. Bartlett recently recorded a podcast with her former client Ike Crawford,  discussing juvenile sentencing in the United States and the case of Adnan Syed.  Mr. Crawford was released in February 2021 after spending more than 29 years in prison. Mr. Crawford was sentenced to life without parole at 17 years old. 

That podcast is available here

October 15, 2022 in justice systems, Juveniles, Lauren Bartlett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Event 10/14: Harvard Law Webinar on the UN General Assembly Report on Peace, Security, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

On October 14, 2022 at 12:40pm EST, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Senior Visiting Researcher at Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program and United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, will speak at Harvard Law School previewing his report on peace, security, sexual orientation and gender identity to the 77th General Assembly of the United Nations.

In his report, Victor Madrigal-Borloz calls for greater awareness of how gender and sexual orientation and gender identity dynamics operate in the context of armed conflict, and within peacebuilding and peacekeeping. He aims to provide insight on the application of a comprehensive set of legal resources to foster prevention, participation, protection, relief and sustainable peace for persons, communities and peoples suffering from violence and discrimination in war-torn contexts. The report seeks to establish a basis for expanding existing policies within the United Nations system.

Register for this webinar here.

October 13, 2022 in Gender, LGBT | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Juvenile Sentencing in the U.S. and the Case of Adnan Syed

Bartlett_laurenBy Lauren E. Bartlett

Adnan Syed was seventeen years old when he was charged with an adult crime, tried in adult court, and given an adult sentence (life imprisonment plus 30 years). When he walked out of court on September 19, 2022, he was forty one.  Adnan had served twenty three years in prison for a crime he committed when he was a kid.

There has been so much written and recorded about Adnan’s case since the “Serial” podcast debuted in 2014.  There’s no need to summarize it all here. In fact, I am going to ignore a lot of what is being currently discussed–DNA evidence, Brady violations, the prosecutor under investigation, appeals of the decision to release Adnan and put him on home detention. I am also not going to discuss Adnan’s innocence or guilt.  Instead, what I am going to focus on is the life plus 30 years sentence that was imposed upon him and, more broadly, the human rights violations that are juvenile sentencing in the United States.

I have to admit that I come at this case from unpopular or even seemingly contradictory stances. When I first listened to the Serial podcast in 2014, I was convinced that Adnan was not innocent. Second, regardless of or despite what he did, I don’t believe that he should have been in prison for as long as he was and I’m glad he’s out of prison.

My Human Rights at Home Litigation Clinic students and I have been representing individuals for the purposes of juvenile life without parole hearings here in Missouri for the last two years.  We have represented eight individuals, so far, who were sentenced to life without parole for crimes they allegedly committed when they were kids–Ages fifteen to seventeen years old. Seven of our eight clients have had parole hearings.  Of those seven, all received out dates, and five individuals have already been released on parole after more than thirty years inside.  These cases have been lifechanging for my clients, for my students, and for me. 

One of the minor ways this work has changed my life, is that I now can’t stand true crime podcasts, or true crime tv shows, or any of it.  I have no desire to figure out who dunnit or to listen to the hosts call for a witch hunt for a supposed murderer.  With my post-conviction work, none of that matters to me. My clients are all human beings who have been in prison since they were kids.  They have faced some of the worst things that any human has to face–lack of adequate healthcare, constant fear, fights, endless solitary confinement, hopelessness, lack of adequate food and water, tortuous security tactics, being cut off from friends and family and even religious services during the pandemic, and no real opportunities for rehabilitation. I will fight for my detained clients’ release forever.

Here in Missouri, our legislature enacted bill SB 590, reforming sentencing for juveniles convicted of murder in the first degree.  Now instead of being sentenced to life without parole or the death penalty, judges may also sentence juveniles to life with parole or to between 30 and 40 years in prison.  To be clear, this change did not ban juvenile life without parole in Missouri, instead just made the sentence non-mandatory. In 2021, the legislature enacted SB 26, allowing offenders sentenced to fifteen or more years as a minor for nonviolent crimes to apply for parole after fifteen years of imprisonment. Next Missouri needs an overhaul of the parole hearing process, but I’ll leave that discussion for another date.

Unlike Missouri, Maryland, where Adnan Syed was convicted, has prohibited sentencing a minor to a life imprisonment without the possibility or parole or release.   In addition, Maryland law now states that individuals, like Adnan, who were sentenced to juvenile life without parole may petition a judge after serving at least twenty years, to reduce their sentence.  Maryland has gone further than Missouri in both of these respects.  Missouri is not resentencing and has not banned juvenile life without parole. 

Moreover, the United States is the only country in the world that allows for the sentencing children to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In fact, human rights law requires that children under the age of eighteen years old be detained for the shortest period of time possible, and their sentences must be proportionate to the circumstances and gravity of their offenses, as well as their own individual circumstances and needs. In some countries juveniles are not sentenced to prison at all.

Sarah Koenig in Serial Episode of 11: Rumors asked “can you tell, really? Can you tell if someone has a crime like this in him? I think most of us think if we know someone well, we can tell.?” Essentially she is asking: How can you know a person’s character? How can you tell what a person is capable of? What if you change those words to ‘How can you know a child’s character?’ I believe a child’s character, even the character of a child who is 17 years old, is not fixed. Instead, I assume a child’s character is going to change, mold and grow, over time, depending on life circumstances and more. To me, knowing a child’s character seems an impossible task.  I think that’s what the U.S. Supreme Court was getting at in dramatically curtailing juvenile sentencing over the last couple of decades.  Children sometimes do really bad things, but they can still grow up to be beautiful, wonderful human beings, all of the time, if given the opportunity and support. The law and legal system needs reflect that, at the international, federal, state and local level.

October 11, 2022 in Children, Criminal Justice, Lauren Bartlett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 10, 2022

New Article: The State, the UDHR, and the Social Construction of Family in Human Rights: The Case of the Scarborough 11

Abby S. Willis, Mary C. Burke, Davita Silfen Glasberg, The State, the UDHR, and the Social Construction of Family in Human Rights: The Case of the Scarborough 11, Societies Without Borders, Volume 16 Issue 1 (2022). Abstract below.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) declares in Article 16(3) that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to the full protection by society and the state.” However, the UDHR does not define family, but rather presumes it is defined by traditional heteronormative marriage in a nuclear family. The failure of the UDHR to consider a more expansive view of family leaves the definition of family centrally in the hands of the state, and affects the ability of all but traditional nuclear family forms to access other human rights. We add to the scholarship on the role of the state in defining and maintaining family and family inequality through an examination of the case of the Scarborough 11, an intentional family sued by the city of Hartford, CT for violations of residential zoning ordinance based on family. This case challenges hegemonic constructions of family and illustrates the limits of the UDHR to protect all families. The case demonstrates the importance of the related questions: 1) how legal definitions of family create the capacity for local residents to understand non-nuclear families living among them, 2) whether the end-goal of this problem should be to expand the state’s definition of family or remove that power from the state in total (a question of reform vs. abolition) and, 3) what might a case concerning white middle-class professionals’ struggles to thrive tell us about boundary maintenance and the struggles of the poor to survive?

October 10, 2022 in Books and articles, Universal Declaration of Human Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

New Article: I Exist, Therefore I Should Vote: Political Human Rights, Voter Suppression and Undermining Democracy in the U.S.

Davita S. Glasberg, William T. Armaline, Bandan Purkayastha, I Exist, Therefore I Should Vote: Political Human Rights, Voter Suppression and Undermining Democracy in the U.S., Societies Without Borders, Volume 16 Issue 1 (2022). Abstract below.

The right to vote is clearly delineated among the rights identified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the US has long held itself as the beacon of that democracy and enfranchisement. Yet, a long history persists of practices and policies of voter suppression and gerrymandering that targets the rights of Black, brown, and indigenous populations in the US, a history that has in recent years escalated. We use the framework of the Human Rights Enterprise to unpack this history and to explore why efforts of voter suppression are intensifying at this particular moment in history.

October 4, 2022 in Books and articles, Voting | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 29, 2022

U.S. Will Soon be Reviewed by the UN Committee Against Torture

In September of 2021, the United States submitted its sixth periodic report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture, the treaty body which monitors implementation and compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

There has already been some pushback by human rights groups against the sixth periodic report submitted by the U.S. in 2021. Human Rights Watch published an joint letter to the Biden Administration from civil and human rights organizations in December 2021, asserting that the sixth periodic report failed to report accurately on policies and practices that do not comply with or contradict the Convention.  The letter argues that the report: (1) obscures U.S. border policies that violate the Convention; (2) ignores U.S. executive actions that are inconsistent with requirements in the Convention (specifically in reference to Guantanamo Bay and the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program); and (3) obscures the lack of accountability for law enforcement abuses.

The Committee Against Torture holds three sessions per year in April-May, July-August, and November-December. It is likely that the U.S. review will be scheduled soon and will be held in 2023.  The full content of the report can be found here. The HRW letter can be found here.

September 29, 2022 in CAT | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Event 9/29: RFK Human Rights Book Club - America on Fire

Join Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (RFKHR) online Thursday, September 29, 2022, from 4-5 pm ET / 1-2 pm PT for the RFKHR Board and Leadership Council Book Club featuring 2022 RFK Book Awards Laureate Elizabeth Hinton, her latest work - America on Fire and RFKHR Board Member Elisa Massimino, former long-time executive director of Human Rights First.

America on Fire presents a new framework for understanding our nation’s broken criminal legal system, tracing the untold history of police violence and Black rebellion since the 1960s. It also warns readers that rebellions—defined as explosions of collective resistance to an unequal and violent order—are most likely to continue if the systems of inequality and injustice that have remained since the era of Jim Crow are not restructured.


  • Elizabeth K. Hinton, Associate Professor, Department of History and Department of African American Studies, Yale University; Professor of Law, Yale Law School
  • Elisa Massimino, Visiting Professor of Law and Executive Director, Human Rights Institute, Georgetown University; Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress

The discussion is open to everyone and can be viewed across our social media platforms. This event is open to everyone and can be accessed via our Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube accounts and our website. You can learn more and register for the event here.

September 27, 2022 in Criminal Justice | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 22, 2022

U.S. Releases Supplemental Information after CERD Review

The U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Geneva has put together a website and released a video recording of the civil society consultation that took place on August 10, 2022, the day before the formal presentation of the U.S. report to CERD.  The Biden-Harris Administration has also shared a supplemental report it submitted to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination after the U.S. review.

This display of transparency comes in response to a letter signed by 48 representatives of civil society organizations and Indigenous Peoples to the Biden Harris Administration requesting such measures as to (1) ensure that all relevant parties – namely, government officials who will be responsible for implementation and Indigenous Peoples’ organizations who were unable to participate - may see what transpired, (2) allow for greater public education, and (3) exemplify the administration’s transparent engagement with these organizations.

The supplemental report contains statements from the State of California’s Office of the Attorney General, the City of Atlanta, the Executive Office of the President, and several other U.S. government agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of the Interior, detailing their respective plans for implementing the CERD recommendations.

September 22, 2022 in CERD | Permalink | Comments (0)