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From Inquisitorial to Restorative: The Chilean Experience—Challenges for Criminal Justice Reform in South America  

Author:  Alejandra Mera.

Source: Volume 18, Number 03, Spring 2009 , pp.7-13(7)

Journal of Community Justice (formerly Journal of Community Corrections)

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Until the 1990s, Chile, like most South American countries, could be counted among the nations with inquisitorial criminal justice systems, systems that were a legacy of the Spanish and Portuguese colonization in the region. Among other features, South American criminal justice codes did not incorporate the presumption of innocence, provide for oral trial, or separate the functions of prosecution and sentencing. Democracies have reemerged in the region since the 1980s, and this has led to the adoption of adversarial approaches to criminal justice procedure. Chile began the implementation of criminal process reform in the year 2000 and started a new youth justice system in June 2007. Both of these reforms contain measures that may be considered restorative. However, it is not clear what role restorative justice will play in Chilean justice. It is likely that future developments of restorative justice programs in Chile will clash with a broader trend in Western societies, mainly in neoliberal countries, of increasing punitiveness. This paper reviews the process of reform of the criminal justice procedure in Chile and describes the new institutions that facilitate the development of restorative solutions. It then examines the performance of some restorative programs. Finally, it discusses the future prospects of restorative justice in Chile.

Keywords: Administrative discretion; reparatory agreements; conditional suspension of proceedings; legal culture; judiciary.

Affiliations:  1: Faculty of Law, Diego Portales University.

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