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This article uncovers how and why in the Cold War’s wake, the U.S. government began to export U.S.-style criminal law and procedure models to developing and politically transitioning states. U.S. criminal justice development consultants now work in countries across the globe. This article reveals how U.S. initiatives have shaped state and non-state actors’ responses to a range of global challenges, even as this approach suffers from a deep democratic deficit. Further, this article argues that U.S. programs perpetuate U.S.-style legal institutional idolatry (which is often tied to systemic dysfunction both in the United States and abroad), and in so doing impoverish our collective capacity to imagine more effective and humane alternatives. For example, while U.S. consultants have promoted adversarial criminal procedure reforms (jury trials, transformed roles for judges and lawyers), along with the criminalization of intellectual property infringement in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, interpersonal violence has become ever more prevalent. Moreover, the transformed procedures have failed to operate as intended. As in the U.S. context, this has required extensive reliance on plea-bargaining and exacerbated system backlogs. The article concludes by considering what criminal rule of law alternatives might entail, including the United Nations’ ongoing alternative development initiatives, which subsidize alternative livelihoods for persons engaged in criminalized conduct until the licit alternatives become self-sustaining.

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29 Yale L. & Pol'y Rev. 83-164 (2010)