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Criminal Systems for Youth in Latin America

Carolina Villadiego Burbano | August 4, 2016

This article analyzes recent reforms on youth criminal systems in Latin American countries.


In the last decades, the Latin American countries reformed their penal systems for adolescents.

These changes were influenced by four distinct movements: (1) adoption of the “United Nations doctrine for comprehensive protection” and the International Convention on the Rights of the Child; 2) the normative consolidation of the rights of persons prosecuted criminally; 3) the constitutionalization of the rights of children and persons in conflict with criminal law; and, 4) the implementation of the accusatory criminal system.

Currently, a large number of countries have laws that regulate criminal systems for adolescents, generally based on the postulates of the doctrine of integral protection, although there are substantive differences between them.

In some countries, juvenile criminal regimes form part of comprehensive childhood and adolescent laws, while in others they are independent norms.

Reforms have a common feature: there is little information on implementation and little evaluation of changes.



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