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Latin America

Provides articles discussing restorative justice advancements in Latin America. Articles appear in the order in which they were added to the site with the most recent appearing first.

World needs to find alternatives to putting children in jail
from the article by Astrid Zweynert in The Daily Mail: An estimated one million children are in jail around the world, a violation of child rights principles that say detention should only be a measure of last resort, a leading campaigner said on Monday.... The effects can be devastating. Children are likely to be exposed to abuse and violence, including from the police, security forces, their peers or adult detainees, said Vito Angelillo, chief executive of aid agency Terre des Hommes....
Restorative practices improve outcomes and relationships in criminal justice and education settings across Latin America
from the article posted by The International Institute for Restorative Practices: The Latin American Institute of Restorative Practices (El Instituto Latino Americano de Prácticas Restaurativas or ILAPR), IIRP’s affiliate based in Lima, Peru, has been working for three years to foster the development of restorative practices throughout South America and in Mexico. Jean Schmitz, director of ILAPR, and his colleagues, have provided basic restorative practices training to approximately 1,000 people in seven countries, including Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and Columbia. This professional development is beginning to have an impact in the fields of education and criminal justice.
Let the victims speak: A voice from Peru on the Commissions on Truth and Disappearances
from the article by Eduardo González Cueva: On April 24, seven and a half years after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Parliament voted to establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and a Commission of Investigation on Disappeared Persons (CIDP). Given the long wait, some expected victims’ organizations and human rights groups to be ecstatic; but in fact, the opposite is true. They have strongly rejected the bill because—they claim—it will allow the commission to recommend amnesties for perpetrators of gross human rights violations.
Uruguay police officers training in 'restorative justice' methods in Cambridge
from the article in MercoPress: Fourteen police officers from Uruguay are currently attending courses at the Criminology Institute at Cambridge University, as part of their training for the country's Citizens' Security program, implemented with the support from the Inter American Development bank.
Nicaraguan Women May Have to Negotiate with their Abusers
From the article from the Inter Press Service news Agency: Conservative sectors in Nicaragua have launched an offensive against the Comprehensive Law Against Violence Toward Women, seeking amendments including an obligation for women victims to negotiate with their abusers, human rights groups reported.
Central America: Promoting restorative justice
from the article by Rhegan Hyypio on Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns: ....Despite increased requests for alternative initiatives to curb violence and crime (for instance, see the Caravan for Peace, September-October 2012 NewsNotes), the U.S. continues to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Latin America, which often promotes a dysfunctional system. Lisa Haugaard, director of the Latin America Working Group, testified to the U.S. Congress in September: "[It] is essential that the United States not encourage militaries to take over roles that are more appropriate for police forces … In both Central America and Mexico, we are concerned that the U.S. government has either encouraged or tacitly supported inappropriate roles for the military ... Even though we all know that police are often too weak, corrupt, or abusive, it is a short-term and shortsighted solution to place military in police roles, and it can lead to more abuses. And military-style responses to law enforcement problems—whether or not they are carried out by military forces—can lead to serious human rights abuses."
The fight room
from the article by Elaine Shpungin and Dominic Barter in Tikkun: Today we continue to struggle with other epidemics, such as the widespread persistence of interpersonal violence, structural violence, and violence based in inter-racial and inter-ethnic tensions. Not only is the cost great in terms of lost lives and personal trauma, but considerable resources are also spent on attempts to subdue, redirect, and control the violence. Yet, as in nineteenth-century London, we may continue to make little progress in treating this disease until we are willing to honestly re-examine our deeply held beliefs about its origins.
Justicia Juvenil Restaurativa in Peru
This 14 minute video highlights the Justicia Juvenil Restaurativa project in Lima, Peru. The project started in 2005 as a partnership between the foundation Terre des Hommes and the Peruvian NGO, Asociación Encuentros Casa de la Juventud. In the video, ex-offenders, social workers, police officers, judges, and prosecutors explain the programme and the various services offered.
Brazil creates truth commission to probe rights abuses
from the article on Brazil's Senate has voted to set up a truth commission to investigate rights abuses, including those committed during military rule from 1964 to 1985. The bill, already passed by the Chamber of Deputies, now goes to President Dilma Rousseff to be signed into law. Ms Rousseff, a former left-wing activist jailed by the military, had urged Congress to pass the legislation.
Restorative practices in Latin America
from part one of the two part article by Joshua Wachtel" Throughout Latin America, there are growing efforts to confront the social consequences of poverty and violence. Restorative practices provides an outlook that is appealing to many who are working to bring people together to resolve problems and transform the nature of society. Miguel Tello, originally from Mexico, now lives and works in San Jose, Costa Rica. Tello first got involved with the IIRP when he contacted IIRP founder Ted Wachtel for permission to translate Wachtel’s article “Restorative Justice in Everyday Life” into Spanish to use at a Prison Fellowship International conference. Tello then took IIRP trainings and became an IIRP trainer.
Colombia moves past reconciliation and revives the idea of reparation
from Michelle Chen's article in Colorlines: When unspeakable crimes have been committed, justice often falls silent, too. That’s why half a century after Colombia plunged into bloody conflict and oppression, the healing has barely begun. But a new law is trying to make victims of the violence whole in a country still fractured by brutal violence. In the process, it has revived an old debate over reparations, and how society should confront past injustices that still shape life today. Colombia’s so-called “victims’ law” is the product of years of negotiation between the government and militia groups. The law centers on punishment as well as restitution. Many will be compelled to confess their crimes and, unlike many previous efforts at what’s been dubbed restorative justice, survivors will be allowed to petition for compensation.
Colombia to compensate victims of armed conflict.
From the article by Sibylla Brodzinsky in the Guardian: Nearly four million victims of Colombia's long-running internal conflict could receive compensation and see their stolen lands returned under a new law. Government and opposition figures as well as human rights activists have all hailed the legislation, which passed in the Senate last week, as "historic" and "transcendental". The law aims to give financial compensation – equivalent to about £6,600 – for every victim reported murdered or forcibly disappeared. Colombia has one of the highest numbers of disappearances in Latin America, with more than 57,200 people still missing, at least 15,600 of which were forcibly disappeared, according to the UN high commissioner for human rights. More than 100,000 murders during the last three decades are attributed to rightwing paramilitary groups.
Central America: Restorative juvenile justice and a region’s important choices
from the article in Creative Times: In light of the vast challenges faced by the juvenile justice systems in these three countries, Orietta Zumbado, a Judge who leads USAID-SICA AJR’s juvenile justice component, recently sat down with international restorative juvenile justice expert, Victor Herrero. The two team members discussed alternative justice measures in Central America. Herrero, who has applied restorative juvenile justice in more than ten countries, is currently working with AJR to strengthen the institutions responsible for oversight and control of alternative sanctions imposed on minors, so that these more efficiently and more effectively impact recidivism indexes and improve the capacity for the social rehabilitation of offenders.
The limits of Colombia's demobilization programs
from Hans Rouw's article in Colombia Reports: The security situation in Colombia has improved greatly over the last decade as the state has gained more control over the use of violence within its territory; both through combating illegal armed groups and by gaining wider legitimacy with the population. However, there has been a resurgence of violence in recent months, for example in the city of Medellin. Some Colombians blame, at least in part, the failure of the country’s disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs (DDR) for this new deterioration in security.... Are there, then, factors that make Colombia’s DDR programs unique, or would it suffice to state that accompanying a peace process with DDR is just difficult and bound to end in disappointment?
Our justice system requires us to punish wrongdoers, what if there were a better way?
from the entry by Mikhail Lyubansky on race-talk: For those of us living in the United States, “doing justice” is mostly synonymous with administering punishment. We may not literally follow the Biblical edict of “an eye for an eye”, but most of us still believe that “the punishment must fit the crime”. Indeed, many of us would be hard pressed to even come up with an alternative justice system. Yet alternatives abound in the form of restorative justice.
APAC: Brazil’s restorative justice prisons
from Lorenn Walker's entry on Restorative Justice & Other Public Health Approaches for Healing: APAC’s approach is opposite to most prisons. Instead of making the people incarcerated in them feel bad, guilty, and like failures, APAC works to make people feel worthy, respected, and able to restore their lives. APAC gives people hope that they can contribute something to help others and that they can be of service in some way, no matter what their situation. APAC’s restorative approach begins with the name it uses to refer to the people who live in these prisons. Instead of calling the people inmates or prisoners, APAC calls the recuperandos because they are “people in the process of rehabilitation.” The late Insoo Kim Berg, co-founder of solution-focused brief therapy, would have loved this name recuperandos because she recognized the importance of language and how our labels influence behavior and our experiences.
Restorative justice.
From John Malkin's article in Good Times: Downtown Santa Cruz, a high school student takes clothes from a store without paying and is caught in the act. Instead of going to jail, she agrees to meet with a store manager to discuss the act and mutually agree on what to do next. An elementary school garden is destroyed by teenagers. During a restorative dialogue, the teenagers sob with sadness, realizing the affect they’ve had on the younger kids who put so much energy into growing their garden. A math teacher’s car is broken into by a young man. They agree to discuss the event in a restorative meeting. The two come to understand each other’s perspective, forgiveness arises and the teacher ends up offering to help tutor the youth in math. During a downtown May Day celebration, windows of 18 businesses are smashed. A sharing circle offers people the chance to discuss how they were affected by the property destruction, and to discover possible ways of building community. These are examples of a growing trend in responding to harmful actions and building trust between individuals and communities called Restorative Justice. Restorative Justice (RJ) is a philosophy that incorporates a diversity of tools to restore safety and connection through voluntary dialogue and mutual agreement. Often these meetings lead to transformational changes in people’s lives.
Promoting Restorative Justice in Panama
By Lynette Parker Although the authority to use mediation in responding to certain crimes first appeared in Panamanian regulations in 1995, such alternatives continue be underutilised by justice system personnel. Subsequent legislation and policies developed by the Ministerio Público have sought to strengthen mediation including the creation of alternative dispute resolution centres in different parts of the country. In 2009, the government put out a request for proposals for consultants to assist with promoting penal mediation throughout the country. The Centro de Conciliación y Arbitraje (Centro) of the Cámara de Comercio, Industrias y Agricultura of Panama won the contract for the project for the development of a system of alternative conflict resolution. In doing so, the Centro contracted Prison Fellowship Panama as consultants on the project. From 28 June thru 1 July, I had the honour and pleasure to work with representatives from both organisations in a series of awareness raising seminars for justice system personnel.
Mexico and New Orleans Learn About Restorative Practices
From the 11 June Restorative Practices E-Forum by Laura Mirsky: Both Mexico and New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, are experiencing high incidences of crime and violence. To find new ways to deal with this issue, participants from both locations recently attended special four-day immersion events at the IIRP’s Bethlehem campus. An April 26-29 event involved 30 criminal and juvenile justice officials from 10 states in Mexico; a May 11-14 immersion included 15 educators and youth-justice professionals from New Orleans. Both groups spent two days visiting the IIRP’s model program schools for at-risk youth, operated by Community Service Foundation and Buxmont Academy (CSF Buxmont), and two days training in restorative practices. The participants were very excited about what they observed and learned, and most are hoping to begin implementing restorative practices when they return home. The seeds for the Mexicans’ visit were planted when John Bailie, IIRP director of trainers and lecturer at the IIRP Graduate School, presented a paper at the First International Restorative Justice Conference: Humanizing the Approach to Criminal Justice, in Oaxaca, Mexico, in September 2008. Subsequently, Nancy Flemming, coordinator of the alternative justice area of MSI’s (Management Systems International) Programa de Apoyo para el Estado de Derecho en México [Support Program for the Rule of Law in Mexico — PRODERECHO] project, funded by USAID organized the IIRP visit to help immersion attendees find ways to improve their respective states’ criminal justice systems. This undertaking was mandated by a 2006 amendment to the Mexican constitution requiring states to reform their penal codes to make them more effective and more humane — to include oral trials, the right to legal counsel and other legal prerogatives. Many of the immersion participants are involved in this reform process, in a variety of ways.
Restorative Justice Everywhere: Final Update from the UN Crime Congress
Friday (my last day at the UN Crime Congress) was busy with ancillary sessions and sitting through one of the main workshops. The first ancillary session, organised by Prison Fellowship International, looked at Latin American Experiences with Restorative Justice. I opened the session with a brief introduction of the participants describing the goal of the session as opening a dialogue on the various experiences with restorative justice in the region.

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