Human dignity plays a central and constitutive role within the German and Dutch criminal justice systems. It influences not only the overall approach to, and accepted purpose of, punishment, but also the types of sanctions that are typically doled out, the setup of their prisons, and the conditions in which prisoners find themselves once in custody. Although human dignity is not the paramount value in the American criminal justice system, this article contends that recent criminal justice reform efforts implicate human dignity into system practices to a greater degree than ever before. While the reform efforts are prompted by a concern for efficiency and efficacy, policymakers are increasingly relying on research that indicates that more humane and individualized treatment of offenders is a key component to achieving desired public safety outcomes. The article starts with a brief discussion of how human dignity became a central value of the European system and contrasts this with the historically weaker sway human dignity has played in the American system. It then demonstrates that the principle of human dignity is gaining influence through recent legislative reform efforts in the United States as well as changes in correctional training and supervision practices.

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