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15 October Oct 2012 1405 15 October 2012

Human Rights in Criminal Justice Systems: the Brazilian APACs' experience

The delegation of the European Union presented APACs’experience to the representatives of member states of the Human Rights sector

The Association for Protection and Assistance of Prisoners (APAC – Associação de Proteçao e Assistência aos condenados) is a Brazilian not-for-profit organization which has been developing a unique approach to prison regime since 1972. APAC’s methodology, which today is considered as a reference point also at the international level, is based on the concept of human valorization and represents an alternative to the conventional prison system. In Brazil there are 147 APAC. The world average of criminal recidivism rate is 70% and in Brazil reaches 80%, whereas in the APACs it decreases to 10%. Moreover, the cost per person for the construction of a jail site is a third of the cost of the conventional prison and the maintenance costs are halved.
The APACs were founded 40 years ago by a volunteer of the Prison Pastoral Care in São Paulo, Mario Ottoboni. Today, their methodology is recognized by the Brazilian law and applied by the Courts of 17 Brazilian states. This methodology is based on the recognition of having committed a mistake and the decision to change life within the APAC prisons. They are structured with the aim of a real re -socialization of prisoners in order to avoid the risk of recidivism. APACs are not only a model for the recovery of convicts but also a real alternative for the expiation of the punishment.
APACs facilities are run by volunteers and trusted prisoners, not by the government prison police. Prisoners are given increased responsibility for the operation of the prison as they respond to the trust that is extended to them. Even the man who holds the prison’s key is a prisoner and often you can read on the walls “The man is greater than his mistakes”.
The project “Alem dos muros – Beyond the walls”, started up by AVSI in partnership with the APACs and the Brazilian organization Instituto Minas pela Paz, aims to strengthen APACs’ management, which mainly involve volunteers, and provide vocational training and access to labor market.