Jennifer Peirce is a doctoral candidate in Criminal Justice at John Jay College (CUNY Graduate Center) and an expert on criminal justice policy issues in Latin America and the Caribbean. Her dissertation research project is a mixed-methods analysis of the recent human rights-oriented prison reform process in the Dominican Republic, with a focus on incarcerated people’s perceptions of their conditions. Jennifer is also a doctoral Scholar with the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation in Canada. Jennifer's writing has been published in the International Criminal Justice Review, Queen's Law Journal, Foreign Affairs, and Insight Crime, among others. She has over a decade of professional experience working on international development projects related to criminal justice system reform, violence prevention, and post-conflict issues in Latin America and the Caribbean with the Inter-American Development Bank, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, and several NGOs. Jennifer holds an M.A. from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada) and a B.A. in International Development Studies and Spanish from Dalhousie University (Halifax, Canada).
Latin American And Caribbean Politics
Access To Justice
Latin American Politics
Prisons And Gender
Abstract In this article, we explore patterns of prison violence in five Latin American countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, and Peru. Drawing on data from prisoner surveys conducted in 49 facilities with over 4,400 prisoners, we analyze the association between facility-level and individual-level rates of experiences of violence and the extent of perceived criminal activity committed in or ordered from inside prisons. Contrary to classical theory, neither poor prison conditions nor prior delinquent experience is directly associated with increased violence. Rather, we demonstrate that prison facilities with more widespread criminal activity inside have higher rates of prison violence. Further, within a given facility, prisoners with closer ties to criminal activity have more pre-incarceration criminal exposure and are also more likely to experience violence inside prison; this reflects research on victim–offender overlap. At a general level, our study shows that involvement in the sub-rosa economy of the prison increases one’s risk of violence in prison. We consider how common features of Latin American prisons—scarce state-provided resources, permeability to people on the outside, and more prisoner-led governance—explain these dynamics of violence inside prisons. Where prisoner-led governance is more consolidated—such as in Brazil and El Salvador—violence appears to be less common, even if criminal activity is prevalent, compared to countries where prison governance is combined or contested between authorities and prisoners. These findings suggest that prison violence reduction policies should respond to the real needs and strategies of incarcerated people rather than simply impose more control.
In 2015, the United Nations adopted the Revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the Mandela Rules. These new soft law standards are a significant normative reference for national legislators, courts, correctional administrators, and advocates on a range of prison conditions issues. The Mandela Rules include restrictions on solitary confinement that are far more stringent than longstanding Canadian law and practice and have already begun to inform the resolution of contemporary constitutional litigation. Despite their use in constitutional litigation, there is little empirical work done on how international standards, such as the Mandela Rules, are generated—what evidence is relied upon, what compromises are made, and what pragmatic realities shape the final content. This article provides a window into the socio-legal aspects of developing soft law on a topic that is gaining prominence in international and domestic arenas. Drawing from both original interviews and official accounts, this article traces the formation of the UN Mandela Rules and examines how the preparatory and negotiation processes included an unusual degree of involvement of subject matter experts, with both advocates and correctional administrators working to generate evidence-based, pragmatic recommendations. The author argues that the process behind the Mandela Rules challenges assumptions about “correctional expertise” being opposed to restrictions on solitary confinement. Furthermore, this account of the making of the Mandela Rules suggests that these new international norms are not aspirational or foreign, as some have assumed. Rather, they are the product of thoughtful grappling with both normative and operational principles across varying prison settings. The author concludes that judges and policy-makers should consider the broader context of the development of international standards when determining how to rely on international norms as a source of evidence in the resolution of domestic legal issues.
Nicaragua takes bold action to reduce prison overcrowding.