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Final Synthesis/Memoria

of the Research Workshop

"Rising Violence and the Criminal Justice Response in Latin America:

Towards an Agenda for Collaborative Research in the 21st Century"

Held at the University of Texas at Austin,

May 6-9, 1999




Report Compiled and Edited by
Dr. Peter M. Ward (Department of Sociology and
LBJ School of Public Affairs)
Ms. Corinne Davis (Department of Sociology)

This Report is published on behalf of the Department of Sociology and Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS), University of Texas at Austin.

July 1999



Principal Sponsors for this Research Workshop were:


In Addition we are Pleased to Acknowledge Additional Funding and Logistical Support Received From:


We are also profoundly grateful to all of the participants who have given up their time without compensation and sometimes at their own expenses in order to contribute to this meeting. All full listing of participants is included at the end of this report.


Welcome and Introductory Remarks

Peter M. Ward
Session I: Explanations and Analyses of Rising Crime Rates in Latin America
Claudio Beato
Roberto Briceño-León
Emilio Dellasoppa
Marcelo Bergman
Session II: Deviance and Crime: Social Constructions and Social Realities
Nancy Cardía
Rene Jiménez Ornelas
Session III: Youth Crime and Violence in Latin American Cities
Alba Zaluar
Elena Azaola Garrido
Mark C. Stafford
Session IV: Domestic Violence and Child Abuse: Causes and Responses
Teresa Hernández Cajo
Helieth Saffioti
Session V: Accountability or Impunity? Direction for Reform of Judicial and Criminal Justice Systems
Maria Tereza Sadek
Enrique Díaz Aranda
Session VI: Dispute Resolution and the Rule of Law in Latin America
Elizabeth Sussekind
Joseph Thome
Corinne Davis
Session VII: Prisons and Rehabilitation: Current Conditions and Future Prospects
Rosa del Olmo
James Cavallaro
Anthony Bottoms
Session VIII: Innovative Methodologies & Statistical Analysis in Working with Latin American Crime Data
Christopher Birbeck
Ignacio Cano
James Lynch
Session VIV and Cluster Meetings
Mr. Bernardo Gluch: OAS
  • Working Group Reports
  • Bio-pictures of Presenters
  • List of Workshop Participants

    Welcome and Introductory Remarks

    Peter M. Ward

    Dept. of Sociology and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs

    In my capacity as coordinator of the Mellon Foundation Latin American Sociology doctoral program it is my pleasure to welcome you all to this Research Workshop. The Department of Sociology at UT-Austin is one of three such designated centers (the others being UCLA and UC Berkeley) which receive Fellowships from the Mellon Foundation designed to strengthen the training of sociologists with expertise in Latin America.

    Latin America at UT-Austin

    At UT we are also privileged to have the premier Latin American studies program in the country built around the Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS). Indeed, there are over 150 faculty across the University with a mainstream teaching and research interest in Latin America. Of those almost half focus upon either Mexico or Brazil which are the two principal centers within ILAS. In the Benson Latin American Library with over 700,000 books the University also has one of the best bibliographic collections in the country rivaling that of the Library of Congress. Given that both ILAS and the Benson Library are located on this side of campus at the far extreme of this same building in which we are meeting today, I hope that you may get an opportunity to make a brief visit at some stage during our proceedings.

    The University remains heavily committed to Latin American Studies today, and as Provost Shelden Ekland-Olson underscored in his opening remarks, President Larry Faulkner has made the enhancement of research and teaching in this area one of his five top development priorities. Most of those invited to this meeting are sociologists, many of you with expertise in criminology and/or demography. As you know, the Department of Sociology, as one of the top 15 ranked departments in the United States, and it particular it has exercised longstanding leadership in Latin American studies. More recently the University has created a Center for Criminology and Criminal Justice Research based in the department. While the focus of the Center's efforts to date has been largely US and Texas, our wish is to extend its reach to Latin America, and to develop collaborative programs with clusters of researchers throughout the region. In part it is for these institutional reasons that we organized this Research Workshop.

    Workshop Rationale and Organization

    But there are other more pressing reasons, of course. As we shall observe in the first session, rising violence threatens to overwhelm many Latin American countries and large cities in particular. The data that Drs. Roberto Briceño León and Claudio Beato and others will present us are dramatic indeed, and are not satisfactorily explained by reference to poverty, narcotics or other commonly held factors. The etiology of rising crime and violence is complex and multi-dimensional. Moreover, in response many Latin American countries are actively seeking to reform their criminal justice systems, and to strengthen their institutional capacity against a backdrop of broadening democracy and increased civic participation. Here, too, many of the expert presentations will draw our attention both to the huge backlog that exists, as well as shedding light upon some of the shortcomings in that reform process.

    Nonetheless, while the preoccupation and focus is upon Latin America, one of the aims of this conference is to open up a dialogue between experts from the US and from Europe with counterparts in Latin America, and to identify priorities for collaborative research and exchange of experiences. For this reason the sub-heading in the conference title: Towards a Collaborative Research Agenda in the 21st. Century.

    Over the next two and a half days we propose look generally across a number of themes rather than examine any one issue exhaustively. Indeed, any one of the program two-hour session topics would make for a good conference in its own right. This ambitious agenda is quite deliberate. We intend this to be a "brainstorming" event at which many of those who are at the sharp end of path-breaking research would have an opportunity to engage in conversations that will, we hope, lead to active collaboration between clusters of scholars here at UT and in the US, with counterparts at leading Latin American institutions. In short, that this meeting will be a "way-marker guide" (to use Dr. Bill Kelly's term) to the priority issues.

    To that end, we have structured the meeting in such a way as to maximize discussions across the range of issues that confront us, and to leave much of the necessary depth to subsequent collaborative research, some of which we hope may be financed and supported by foundations and organization such as those represented in this meeting: specifically, The Organization of American States, the Mellon and Ford Foundations, among others.

    Deliberately we have sought to keep this meeting relatively small -- to around 60 participants. I have not solicited full papers from the 25 invited expert participants, but instead have requested that each talk briefly (15-20 minutes) about how they view the priority issues that need to be addressed, and what they regard as the principal and most productive lines of inquiry over the next ten years. In short, a position statement that will provide a focus for discussion.

    May I also take this opportunity of particularly thanking our Latin American speakers for their willingness to present their ideas in English. Ordinarily our tradition at these meetings is to allow participants to speak in Spanish, Portuguese or English, but given the intention here was to open a dialogue with US and European specialists -- many of whom who do not have Spanish or Portuguese -- we felt obliged to make English the lingua franca. In one or two cases we have translated into English the summaries that were sent us in advance, and here the actual presentation will be in Spanish.

    As you will observe the program is a full one and there have been minimal changes. The first two days will focus upon systematic theme discussions, while on Sunday morning there will an opportunity to for the OAS and Ford to talk a little about their short and medium-term funding priorities. There will also be an opportunity for us to engage in small working groups with the aim of identifying in summary form what we have learned from this particularly meeting.

    As I previously mentioned, one of the products anticipated from this meeting is institutional collaboration and development. Also, within a month of two of the meeting a written record of our discussions will be produced in hard copy and electronic forms. Rather than being a lengthy compendium of published papers, this Memoria or Synthesis will instead comprise a short (two to four page) synthesis of the main points of each presentation provided by individual authors, together with a summary of the discussion that will be provided by graduate student rapporteurs. In this way we hope to be able to disseminate the fruit of our labors more widely and in a form that is more readily accessible and easily digested.

    Finally, I should like to express my thanks to the organizations and programs who have made this event possible (see the listing on the next page and on the program itself). In particular I am grateful for the fulsome support of representatives Bernardo Gluch from the OAS and Drs. Elizabeth Leeds and Eddie Telles from the Ford Foundation's Brazil Office -- all of whom are with us today at this conference. As always, I am grateful to several of my colleagues from Sociology who have helped in the organization of this meeting: namely Ron Angel, Bill Kelly, Joe Potter, Bryan Roberts, Mark Stafford and Antonio Ugalde. Most of all we owe a vote of thanks to Corinne Davis -- one of our Mellon Fellows in sociology -- whose doctoral work focuses upon informal dispute resolution and mediation in Rio's favelas. Over the past six months Corinne has been the one who has taken primary responsibility for the logistics (hotels, travel, meals, accounting, etc.), but now I hope that she can sit back a little and enjoy the fruits of her labor as an active participant. You will have an opportunity to hear about her work in due course. I'd also like to thank of our other Mellon Fellows and graduate students for their participation and for agreeing to serve as rapporteurs for the general discussion sessions. At the LBJ School I should like to thank Dean Edwin Dorn, and my assistant Diance Ponce for her assistance throughout and especially for subsequent work in getting producing the Memoria.

    Most of all, may I thank you all for participating, particularly those of you who have traveled so far and given up several days of your life in many cases in order to join us at what promises to be a benchmark research meeting, Once again, welcome, and enjoy!

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