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New book reimagines criminal legal system with dignity at its core

Dignity in the Criminal Legal System Cover

Professor Erin Daly announces the release of the digital book "Dignity in the Criminal Legal System: A Policy Guide for Advocacy and Reform." This free publication re-envisions the U.S. criminal legal system by emphasizing the inherent, equal, and inalienable worth of every person.

The book, published by the law school’s Dignity Rights Clinic which Daly directs, explores how focusing on human dignity can transform the United States’ criminal justice system. It covers the evolving dignity law globally, identifies dignity violations in the various phases of the criminal legal system, and offers practical advocacy points for reform.

Key features include detailed analyses of police encounters, pretrial detention, bail, sentencing, incarceration conditions, grievance procedures, prison discipline, and re-entry. One chapter focuses on the treatment of youth in the adult system.

After more than 20 students from the Dignity Rights Clinic wrote papers on various aspects of the criminal legal system and how dignity can reframe these issues—from respectful law enforcement interactions to prison cleanliness—Daly reviewed, researched, and revised these contributions into a comprehensive book. Intended for policymakers, elected officials, and criminal justice reform advocates and litigators, the book acknowledges the significant contributions of the law students, and others, in its opening pages.

"This is a great and significant work. It provides us a lens through which to view the system that calls itself ‘criminal justice.’ All of us who participate in this process — lawyers, judges, teachers, community groups, etc. — should be aware of the ways in which we can advocate for dignity,” renowned legal scholar and human rights activist, Michael Tigar said of the publication.

Daly is an expert in comparative and constitutional law and human rights, focusing on dignity. She is the author of "Dignity Rights: Courts, Constitutions, and the Worth of the Human Person" and co-author of "Dignity Law: Global Recognition, Cases, and Perspectives," among other books.

This book is intended to fire the imagination of all those who want a criminal legal system in which the dignity of all people is respected and protected. It integrates teaching, scholarship and service in the name of human dignity.

"Dignity in the Criminal Legal System: A Policy Guide for Advocacy and Reform" is available for free as a PDF at