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Government Reform

Several governments in Latin America have expressed interest in restorative justice through sponsoring pilot projects for implementation or legislation that permits alternative dispute processes as a means of responding to crime.

Colombia's Houses of Justice
In 1995, the Government of Colombia, with financial support from USAID, established two Casas de Justicia, Houses of Justice, in poor communities whose residents were otherwise denied meaningful access to justice. The purpose of the Casas de Justicia was to bring together in one place a number of municipal services involved in responding to criminal and family violence, and to help clients resolve problems together whenever possible.
Developments From Colombia
In December of 2002,the Colombian National Congress made several changes to article 250 of the Constitution of 1991, which addresses the obligations of the prosecutor in investigation and prosecution of criminal cases. One of those many changes was the inclusion of restorative justice.
Implementing Restorative Reform in Guatemala
In 1996, after over 30 years of internal armed conflict, the Guatemalan government, guerrillas, and civil society representatives signed a series of peace accords to begin the country’s transition to peace. Among the many provisions laid out in the accords were recognition of indigenous customary law and the inclusion of alternative dispute resolution in the justice system. In the area of criminal law, legislation provided for mediation centres and community courts to provide mediation services in all conflicts including minor criminal cases.
Introducing Restorative Practices to Mexico
Recently, the Government of Mexico and several NGOs have embarked on efforts to develop restorative practices in that country. These reforms have been the result of efforts to increase security, recognize victims’ rights, foster changes in the Mexican justice system, and include civil society groups in reforming the system.
Parker, Lynette. The Use of Restorative Practices in Latin America
Several Latin American countries are looking for alternative methods for dealing with crime and conflict. This opening has spurred both government and civil society to experiment with restorative processes.
Pearson, Annette. Can Colombian Community Justice Houses Help the new Criminal Justice System Achieve Restorative Results?
Restorative Justice is not a familiar term amongst the public or in legal circles. Key characteristics of restorative justice values, actors, procedures and settings are not known or understood by formal justice system operators. The 1991 Colombian Constitution created community conciliators and popularly elected judges who do play a role in the justice system. These community justice figures are not acquainted with the restorative justice conccepts as such but they often do have an approach to conflict resolution which resembles restorative justice practices. Rather surprisingly, proponents of restorative justice innovations from within the university context were successful in their bid to have restorative justice references included in the new criminal procedure code passed in July, 2004. This legislation which will come into force on the 1st of January 2005 has an entire section entitled restorative justice. In a wide range of crimes which require citizen initiative to bring them into the criminal justice system, obligatory conciliation proceedings between the victim and the suspected offender before a criminal investigation will be commenced. The reform of the criminal justice system does assume that preliminary conciliation encounters between the victim and the suspected offender can produce restorative justice type agreements. Given the provisions foreseen for the operation of the obligatory conciliation proceedings, it is not likely that restorative justice ends will be well served. Some of these conciliation encounters will be undertaken in community justice houses. The community justice house model located in 32 cities, principally in poor peripheral urban suburbs, included both formal criminal justice system operators, as well as community mediators, conciliators and judges. Abstract courtesy of the Centre for Justice and Peace Development, Massey University,
Penal Mediation Piloted in Argentina
In the 1990s, Argentina began a series of reform efforts to alleviate corruption, overcrowding of jails and prisons, backlogs stalling the court system, and a lack of faith in the justice system. Among those reforms was the Proyecto RAC (Alternative Conflict Resolution Project), a pilot project in penal mediation.
Proposed Restorative Justice Legislation in Brazil
In late 2005, the Commission of Participatory Legislation of the Brazilian House of Representatives held a public discussion on restorative justice. Tasked with bringing civil society organizations into the democratic process, the Commission sponsored the hearing at the request of the Instituto de Direito Comparado e Internacional de Brasilía. As a part of its intervention, the Instituto provided the Commission with draft restorative justice legislation for consideration.
Reforms Create Open Door for Restorative Justice in Chile
Chile is enacting significant justice system reforms that seem to be opening doors for more restorative elements . Problems with crime and lack of trust in the criminal justice system provoked both the government and civil society to seek new options and creative solutions when seeking justice. These include more emphasis on victim’s issues, the creation of community mechanisms for dealing with conflict, and the introduction of mediation projects into schools.
Scuro Neto, Pedro. The Restorative Paradigm: Just Middle-Range Justice
Restorative justice is a middle-range paradigm, a promise of future systemic change, implemented on a lower level of abstraction with operational notions defined for restricted orders of conflict, in specific, localized conditions.

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