An APAC prison garden where inmates are responsible for growing their own food in a semi-sustainable living program. Photo: www.ibj.org / Michelle Ferng

Restorative Justice in Brazil: The Educational Method of APAC Prisons

Issue 1812

13 December 2018

In the dark world of prisons, an experience exists in Brazil that is like a ray of light: there, prisoners are not numbers, rather they are referred to by name; they have tasks to carry out; they are imprisoned in places without bars and without guards; they do not wear uniforms. In these “alternative jails” run by prisoners – called recuperandi (recovering people) – there have been no riots or cases of corruption, while recidivism has been reduced from 85 percent to 15 percent.[1] It does not seem possible, yet experience, data and management costs prove it to be true: the latter have decreased by one third if compared to those run by the State.[2]

For the sake of clarification, it is necessary to state that the educational method of APAC prisons (Association of Protection and Assistance to Convicts) does not foresee any reduction in the rate of custodial sanction. It follows the Brazilian legal system and it is part of the penitentiary system. However, it offers the possibility of humane re-education, rooted in a positive anthropological foundation where the mentality of revenge is not used to repay mistakes made.

At present in Brazil there are 50 prisons managed by APAC, with about 3,500 inmates.[3] This method is used in some prison wings in 23 other countries – such as the Netherlands, Norway, Hungary, the United States, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Singapore. In particular, in Chile there are 23 APAC prisons with 2,500 inmates.

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