Friday, May 22, 2015

One Year After the U.N. Slammed the U.S. on the Criminalization of Youth, How Are We Doing?

by: Cynthia Soohoo, Tawakalitu Amusa and Chelsea Guffy

Editor's note: This post, by Prof. Soohoo and students Amusa and Guffy, is part one of an assessment of the United States regarding treatment of juveniles.  Part two will address specific issues and grades assigned to the U.S.

Last spring, the U.N. Human Rights Committee (HRC) reviewed U.S. compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and called out multiple ways that U.S. treatment of youth in conflict with the law violates human rights standards.  The HRC review began a year of steady international criticism.


  • In September and December and U.N. Committees Against Racial Discrimination and Torture reiterated that the U.S. must reform its youth justice policies.


  • In March, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, issued a report emphasizing the use of alternatives to detention to protect children from torture and ill-treatment. The report singled out the U.S. as the only country that imposes life without parole sentences on children.


  • Last week, during the U.S.’s Universal Periodic Review (a peer review of the human rights record of each country in the U.N.), several countries emphasized that youth under 18 should not be in the adult criminal justice system and recommended that the U.S. end life without parole sentences for juveniles in all circumstances.


One year after the HRC review, CUNY Law School’s International Women’s Human Rights Clinic (IWHR) and its partners issued a Report Card to evaluate U.S. progress on youth justice issues.  The Report Card finds that the U.S. continues to be in violation of its human rights obligations and has not taken satisfactory action to respond to the recommendations.  For more in depth information about state reforms check out the Campaign for Youth Justice’s State Trends report.

This post first appeared in Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

Cindy Soohoo, Universal Periodic Reviews | Permalink


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