APAC: Brazil’s restorative justice prisons
Aug 16, 2010
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.
APAC began in San Paulo, Brazil about 35 years ago with lawyer and serious Catholic, Dr. Mario Ottoboni who worked with others in the community that were dismayed by the prison system and its penchant for turning out criminals instead of rehabilitated people.
My experience at APAC prisons has also made me more committed to using kindness and compassion rather than anger and resentment for dealing with criminal behavior and the harm that it causes.