The United States has the largest prison population in the entire world, but Mary McClymont, WCL/LLM ’87, is working to change that by fighting for humane, constitutional prisons and advocating alternatives to jail. McClymont has always felt passionately about human rights, and as the new president of the Public Welfare Foundation, she is able to continue her career of advocacy for the disenfranchised.
After completing her law degree, McClymont worked at the D.C. Bail Agency. As McClymont says, “Even then I knew that I wanted to work with poor and disadvantaged [people].”
Helping the poor and disadvantaged is a consistent theme in McClymont’s career, and she views the law as “a great mechanism to bring about social change.” After years of work in the American criminal justice system, McClymont traveled to Thailand where she worked at refugee camps. This experience expanded her scope to an international scale. “I recognized that human rights were a great concern not only domestically but internationally as well, and that is when I went to get my degree [in international law] at WCL and soon began working more in the international human rights arena.”
McClymont has worked at Global Rights, an international human rights organization that promotes and protects the rights of marginalized populations in the developing world. Additionally, she was president and chief executive officer of InterAmerican, the largest alliance of U.S.-based international development and humanitarian nongovernmental organizations.
Using her extensive expertise in both American and international law, McClymont works currently with the Public Welfare Foundation, a private, D.C.-based private foundation that helps to ensure fundamental rights and opportunities for people in need, specifically criminal justice, juvenile justice, and workers’ rights. The foundation seeks to bring about systemic change by awarding grants to non-profit organizations with similar goals.
McClymont says her education “has been absolutely critical” to her success. “It really gave me a great grounding in human rights in the early 80s when this was a new field of interest generally, but particularly to American lawyers. The knowledge I gained has been very useful.”