Too often, the law is viewed as an inaccessible code for the elite, rather than a set of principles and practices that weave together a stronger democratic society and provide for justice. If the benefits of globalization are to be maximized, we must build the rule of law in a language that people understand.
Rather than the one-size-fits-all solution espoused by others, Proyecto ACCESO embraces, and has been embedded in, local cultures, utilizing best practices, traditional methods of problem-solving, and indigenous mechanisms built from within, rather than imposed from outside.
The ACCESO team has been committed to using the language of the streets, the common vernacular and local customs. For these reasons, over the last decade our work has been in tandem with civil society groups, state institutions, and the academy to promote meaningful reform and fairer and more equitable administration of justice.
Focus on Problem-Solving
Criminal procedure, particularly the inquisitorial system found throughout Latin America, has often been the first set of laws to be reformed in a post-dictatorship period. Oftentimes, the criminal law was the way in which freedoms like that of association, or speech, were repressed.
So it was no surprise that most Latin American countries emerging from military regimes focused on the reform of their respective criminal laws after the first set of free and fair elections. After criminal procedure comes other reforms: reforms involving police training and promotion, prison reform, family law and labor law reform, and eventually civil procedure reform.
Legal reforms should be more than just the wholesale transplantation of legal innovations or practices (for example Napoleonic codes from France, via Spain, or U.S.-inspired insider trading regulations) from a donor country to a recipient country. Legal reforms require the transfer of technology, culture, institutional know-how, jurisprudence, case management, and court procedures. In addition, local conditions, indigenous traditions, and regional context are all essential factors to consider in the adoption of legal models from abroad.
For close to two decades, Proyecto ACCESO has been introducing problem-solving techniques in the process of legal reform. We have introduced and facilitated a number of problem-solving courts like teen or peer court, community court, drug treatment courts and other diversion and alternative sentencing programs that reduce recidivism and criminality into Latin America. We have also assisted in the development of indigenous justice systems and their integration into the legal reform process.