Experimenting with Restorative Practices in Brazil
- Creating a victim centered system that seeks to repair harm and build relationship
- Opening the justice system and other organizational systems to become more transparent and democratic
- Providing a new approach to resolving problems, disputes, and crimes
- Creating a space where involvement in the process builds community and teaches justice by promoting peace and tolerance.
Projects in schools, the justice system, and the community seek to use conferencing and mediation to meet these goals.
Restorative Justice in Brazilian Schools
Designed by an international group of researchers, Sc Projeto Jundiaí, in the state of São Paulo, sought to create a new system of discipline and organization of Brazilian schools. Câmaras restaurativas (restorative conferences) is the mechanism incorporated into the system for resolving conflict and disciplinary problems, and creating a sense of safety and order in the schools.
Projeto Jundiaí grew out of the recognition that schools with environments of fear of violence and crime-creating disorder had a strong negative impact on the quality of learning. In the first year of planning, the research team identified key factors to improving this situation. These included:
- Dealing with victimization
- Creating more transparent and consistent disciplinary regulations and methods
- Increasing family involvement
- Increasing community involvement
The group then select 26 schools, serving 40 thousand students, to participate in the program.
In March of 2000, the research team met with teachers and school administrators who would form the project’s implementation team. Through interviews with several teachers and students, they built an understanding of the current system used in the school. With this background information, the implementation team created a timeline for completing programme phases. These included changing the rules, instituting the câmaras restaurativas, and providing training in restorative justice and conferencing.
The conferences provided a safe place to bring together everyone impacted by a crime or negative behavior and create a safe place for discussing conflicting points of view and resolving the problem peacefully. This involvement included members of the community. Projecto Jundiaí identified the community as holding responsibility for helping in this process of repairing harm, minimizing future negative consequences of the behavior, and rebuilding healthy relationships. This inclusion in conferencing provided an opportunity to build a new sense of community and feeling of belonging among students, their families and community members. All of these factors worked together to provide the students and adults alike to learn how to work together as a community.
Other Restorative Experiments
While Projeto Jundiaí seeks to bring restorative justice principles in schools, other groups or agencies are applying them in additional areas. The youth justice system in Porto Alegre (southern Brazil) is also experimenting with conferencing. The opening that allows this is the Children and Adolescent act of 1990. While not specifically dealing with restorative justice processes, the law allows the judge hearing the case to suspend the legal proceeding in cases of first time young offenders of less serious crimes. Article 127 provides for use of sanctions such as reparation, community service, or specified school attendance. In this context, the Porto Allegre youth justice system is piloting the use of câmaras restaurativas.
In 1995, Brazilian Federal law also formalized penal mediation and conciliation. The law of Special Criminal and Civil courts (Federal Law 9.099) creates special courts for conciliation in crimes with a maximum penalty of one year in prison. (This was expanded to two years in 2001 with Federal Law 10.259.) The process allows for more access to the justice system, the oral nature provides transparency and inclusion, and the alternative of conciliation allows the victim and offender to settle their own conflict.
In 2000, the desire to create openness in the administration of justice and to enhance community participation led to the Community Justice project in the federal district of Brasilia. While focused on civil claims, the project seeks to inform people of their rights and options, to bring mediation and conciliation processes into the settlement of disputes, and to train community members in the use of these processes. The goals are to
- Be sensitive to local custom and practices in settling disputes and build a sense of community membership and participation.
- Allow people to settle their own conflicts without resorting to the courts
- Understand justice as a way to promote peace thereby leading people to settle disputes peacefully.
Sources used in compiling this feature
Calhau, Lelio Braga. 2002. Personal Communication. March 11.
Congreso Nacional de la Republica . 2001. Lei No 10.259, de 12 de Julho de 2001.
Congreso Nacional de la Republica. 1995. Lei Dos Juizados Especiaís Cíveis e Criminais. Lei N.º 9.099, de 26 de Setembro de 1995.
Federal District Court of Justice (Brasilia, Brazil). 2000. Project Community Justice- PROJUSTIÇA.
Scuro Neto, Pedro. N.d. "A Justiça do século XXI e o movimento restaurativo." Centro Talcott de Direito e Justiça. São Paulo, Brazil.
Scuro Neto, Pedro. 2000. "Câmaras restaurativas: A Justiça como instrumento de transformação de conflitos." In, Antonio Senddim Marques and Leoberto Narciso Brancer, ed. Pela justiça na educação. Brasilia: Fundescola and MEC. Pp. 601-641.
Scuro Neto, Pedro. 1999. "Justiça nas Escolas: A Função das Câmaras Restaurativas." In. L. N. Brancher, M.Q. Rodrigues and A.G. Vieira (eds.). O Direito é Aprender. Brasília: Fundescola, pp. 47-58.
By Lynette Parker