Latin American justice systems face a systemic and worsening crisis. Violent crime rates in many countries–particularly among juveniles–are among the world’s highest. The crisis is exacerbated by drug trafficking and related violence; but the roots lie much deeper–in an antiquated and poorly financed justice infrastructure, endemic corruption and badly trained police.
As in the U.S., the press plays a crucial role in informing public debate and changing public policy. Sixteen editors and reporters from Mexico and Central American joined top U.S. and Latin American experts and academics in criminal justice to discuss the challenges ahead at a two-day workshop in Washington DC April 16-18, 2014.
Participants discussed innovative approaches and best practices underway in the U.S. in sentencing, courts and penal reform, juvenile justice; and visited the Washington DC Superior Court, one of the nation’s busiest, for a half-day of discussions with judges and officials. They also sat in on the Family courtroom and mental health court to see alternative approaches to sentencing and punishment. These areas are now at the forefront of efforts to transform criminal justice administration and practice in Mexico and Central America.
The event, entitled, “The Challenge of Justice in the Americas,” was held at the Washington College of Law at the American University Law School. Speakers at the event included, Carmen Ortiz, US Attorney, District of Massachusetts; Marc Mauer, Director, The Sentencing Project; Jose Patricio Patiño, former Sub-Secretary of the Federal Penitentiary System; Enrique Betancourt, former executive director of Mexico’s Center for Crime Prevention and Citizen Participation; Mirte Postema, Senior Program Of?cer for Judicial Independence at the Due Process of Law Foundation; Jeremy Biddle, Central American Security Initiative, USAID; Valerie Raine, director of drug treatment projects at the Center for Court Innovation; and Carmen Santiago Roberts, of the US Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
The conference was organized by the Center on Media, Crime and Justice (CMCJ) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. The Center gratefully acknowledges the support of the Tinker Foundation, which made the conference possible; and its co-host, Claudio Grossman, dean of the American University Washington College of Law.
Journalism Coordinators of the event were; Ted Gest, president of Criminal Justice Journalists in Washington DC; and Ana Arana, director of the Fundacion de Periodismo de Investigacion (MEPI) in Mexico City.
For a full agenda click here.
This site will be periodically updated with articles by the John Jay/Tinker Reporting fellows, and with additional material . Readers are welcome to submit comments and material that advances discussion of this issue to the Center for posting on this page.