TJ in Brazil
One of the fascinating aspects of the growth of therapeutic jurisprudence is how it is taking root in diverse nations around the world. It is being adapted to the needs of the local people, culture and legal system. It seems readily adaptable to both common law and civil law systems.
A wonderful example of the use of therapeutic options in the legal system has been the use of drug courts to address a principal underlying issue as to why many offenders commit crimes. Since their origin in Miami in the late 1980s they have spread across the US and to other jurisdictions such as Australia, Canada, England, Ireland and Scotland. In the late 1990s a pioneering article by Hora, Schma, and Rosenthal identified TJ as their underlying philosophy.
I was fortunate recently to have been provided with information concerning the use of drug courts in Brazil. Brazil is a country whose legal system derives from the civil law tradition. Its official language is Portugese.
Some Brazilian professionals became aware of drug courts in 1999 and took steps to implement them in their country. In 2000 the US Embassy provided training on drug courts for 50 Brazilian professionals and the country’s National Association of Therapeutic Justice was established. This organisation has since developed professional links with the International Network on Therapeutic Jurisprudence. These Brazilian professionals see TJ as providing the much-needed theoretical link for their program.
In Brazil, drug courts are known as the “Therapeutic Justice Program”. As in other countries, this initiative grew out of an awareness that other options had failed to address underlying issues and prevent further offending. In Brazil, the cost of imprisoning a person is an average of 5.5 times the minimum wage and there is an 85% recidivism rate.
The Therapeutic Justice Program is available for both adults and young offenders. For adults, it is available pre-conviction on the basis of a conditional cessation of the prosecution, in the judgment phase and in the post judgment phase where there is the possibility of release on conditions such as attending weekend treatment programs.
The program assesses a person not simply according to the legal aspects concerning his or her offending but also in terms of their health needs, such as addressing substance abuse.
The Therapeutic Justice Program is in operation or in the process of implementation in 20 Brazilian states and has been found to be cost-effective. The results have been impressive. For example, for juveniles, there have been high attendance rates at treatment, reduction in drug use for more than 50% of participants and a reduction in offending.
These kinds of developments provide the basis for exchange between courts and programs around the world to further the practice in each.
I recommend a visit to the website of the National Association of Therapeutic Justice at: http://www.anjt.org.br/index.php?id=59. There you can access an article on the work of the Therapeutic Justice Program that sets out the program details and results more fully than is possible here.
My sincere thanks to Carmen Silvia Có Freitas for providing me with information concerning this application of therapeutic jurisprudence, Brazilian style! Thank you also to Ricardo de Oliveira Silva.
If you would like more information concerning what is happening in Brazil, you may email Carmen at: firstname.lastname@example.org.