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30th CCPCJ | U.S. on the Use and Application of UN Standards and Norms
May 20, 2021

Two hands shaking.
Image credit: U.S. Department of Justice National Institute of Corrections

30th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice | Agenda Item 7: Use and Application of United Nations Standards and Norms in Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

As delivered by Thomas Burrows, Associate Director for Europe and Senior Counsel for Multilateral Matters, U.S. Department of Justice

The United States reaffirms our support for a comprehensive and integrated approach within the UN system for providing technical assistance and support for international cooperation in criminal justice and anti-crime matters. We are committed to working with Member States to apply the UN Standards and Norms for Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, as appropriate, within their specific constitutional, legal, and policy frameworks.

We view the UN Standards and Norms as important voluntary guidelines that help the international community improve its understanding of best practices in this field that can be adapted by Member States to meet national needs. Their non-binding character has been an essential reason for their widespread application. As best practices, it gives Member States needed flexibility to adopt them in accordance to their constitutional or legal frameworks.

Effective and accountable criminal justice systems rely on strong security and justice institutions to uphold law and order, and play a vital role in combating national and transnational threats such as organized crime, violent extremism, trafficking in persons, illicit trade, and corruption. They also help promote respect for, and protection of, citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms.

Our government is dedicated to identifying evidence-based programmatic and other reforms to help prevent individuals from engaging in criminal activities and disseminate evidence-based best practices to reduce the rate of recidivism.

Furthermore, the United States is pleased to note that in December 2018, Congress enacted a groundbreaking piece of legislation entitled the “FIRST STEP Act.” This Act takes innovative steps to support the rehabilitation of prisoners within the federal prison system and to ameliorate their re-entry into society, with the end goal of decreasing recidivism and reducing levels of incarceration in the United States.

We note that the Compendium promotes the use of non-custodial measures, while taking into account the political, economic, social, and cultural conditions of each country and the aims and objectives of its criminal justice system. The FIRST STEP Act includes support for alternatives to incarceration, as well as additional workforce training and education programs, and provides judges with additional flexibility in sentencing.

The CCPCJ should continue to explore ways to incorporate best practices from its Member States, such as the FIRST STEP Act, into the UN Standards and Norms, so that it continues to provide meaningful voluntary guidance for modern law enforcement and criminal justice practitioners.