Best Criminal Justice in the world?

I had a guest speaker in my class earlier this week who began her presentation by stipulating that the US Criminal Justice system is the “best in the world.”  Of course, much of the rest of her presentation suggested otherwise, so I somewhat doubt she really meant this.  I’m no expert on comparative criminal justice, but my thought was that if we are the best in the world, damn is the rest of the world hurting.  Not to mention, in general Northern European democracies seem to be so much smarter about public policy, so I figured they probably are on criminal justice policy, too.

Well, with the power of google and the World Justice Project, my suspicions are confirmed:

Want a just society? Consider moving to northern Europe. The U.S. isn’t even in the top 15.

This week, the World Justice Project released its annualRule of Law index. It’s base don a survey of 1,000 people in three major cities in 99 countries, each asked identical questions about the limits of government powers, corruption, civil liberties and crime.

The criminal justice system in the U.S. is what pulls the rug out from higher rankings here. [emphasis mine] The general public view it as discriminatory, and stories like the murder of Trayvon Martin in central Florida in 2012 help perpetuate that negative perception.

And here’s the cool graphical summary of the US:


No, we’re not the worst in criminal justice, but safe to say not exactly best in the world.  Like most everything else public policy-wise, we could do so much better.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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