Latin America / Alternative measures to imprisonment

The European Union and Latin America share experiences regarding coordination on the subject of alternative measures

22 March 2021

More than one hundred people logged into a remote meeting to learn about European and Latin American experiences when implementing an Inter-institutional Technical Committee on Alternative Measures (AM) to Imprisonment.

Vania Bonalberti, from the INTPA General Directorate of the European Commission, participated in the inauguration and said that “alternative measures are specific tools to fight crime because, by reducing overcrowding, they allow better management of dangerous people deprived of liberty and improve the social reintegration of detainees”. Bonalberti also highlighted the importance of these matters during the pandemic and the interest of EL PACTO and all stakeholders in the programme to apply this type of measures.

Giovanni Tartaglia Polcini, coordinator of EL PAcCTO’s Prison Systems Component, stressed that “prison overcrowding is a problem that Latin America must solve if it wants to fight against powerful organised criminal groups. Citizen perception of insecurity in the region means that numerous people who have committed minor crimes or first offences are imprisoned with the heads of criminal groups, transforming prisons into “schools of crime.” That is why EL PAcCTO promotes initiatives to reduce prison overcrowding and fight effectively against organised crime.

Ecuador’s experience promoting the creation of an ITC

EL PAcCTO is working to promote the creation of Inter-institutional Technical Committees (ITCs) to deal with  this matter in Latin America. An example is the case of Ecuador. Italian magistrate Mónica Cali collaborated in this country. During the meeting, Cali said that “we studied the different conditions in Ecuador and agreed on an integrated inter-institutional model, because some reforms cannot be undertaken without all the interlocutors in the penal chain. Everyone should feel central to the process of creating the ITCs

According to Mónica Cali, “the objective of the model was to raise awareness among the public and the political decision-makers to find methods of financing and implementing the AM; the implementation of a statistical system to gather data on the region and the types of people in prisons, and to analyse the penal chain and be able to study solutions based on AM”.

The magistrate explained that to activate the ITCs it was important to convene all the actors of the penal chain “to agree upon a work methodology, appoint representatives and a coordinator, and formalise a stable structure through a protocol to activate an ITC at national level”.

Ecuador plans to start experimenting with the ITC model in a pilot city in a position to test the AM, and then scale the experience up to national level”.

EL PAcCTO is also in an advanced phase of promoting an ITC in Colombia and Peru.

Latin American experiences and the need for coordination of the penal chain

The meeting was also attended by Carlos Arturo Hincapié, director of Prison Policy of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights of Colombia, Rommel Ruiz, of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights of Peru, Karen Chica, advisor of the National Court of Justice of Ecuador, Sergio Pinto, judge and lawyer from Argentina, Javier Augusto, delegated attorney for the defence of human rights of the Attorney General’s Office of Colombia, Omar Méndez, of the National Penitentiary Institute of Peru, Rubén Marciel, Vice Minister of Justice of Paraguay and Mariel Viladrich, director of assistance of person under electronic surveillance from Argentina.

They all shared their countries’ experience in the application of alternative measures to imprisonment and highlighted the importance of coordination, cooperation between different actors in the penal chain and raising public awareness so that the AM are a success among the prison population and society in general.

In his conclusions, the coordinator of the Cooperation between Justice Systems component, Antonio Roma, said that “it is important to move from words to deeds and EL PAcCTO has begun a set of consultancies on the subject, so we have the green light. This seminar has been a launch. You are invited to create schedules, set dates, modalities and, in some cases, see the Inter-institutional Technical Committees already in action and the results they have produced”.