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La Política Criminal Reclama Consensos

16/09/2014 | Artículos


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Criminal Policy Calls for Consensus by Juan María Rodríguez Estévez & Florentina María Beltrami

It’s always a good thing that we citizens think and debate publicly issues such as what type of criminal system we desire for our society, being that the states´ criminal policy determines what our stance is against crime. Our main objective is deciding where we want to go so that all of our efforts may have a clear meaning that allows us to differentiate short, medium and long term goals. It’s never a good sign when we don’t know where we are headed.

A comprehensive approach to criminal policy should include the reform of the criminal code soon to be debated in Congress, as well as the update of the administration of justice system -known as the judicial process-.

These two points could be the pillars of an interdisciplinary project that would enable a comprehensive criminal policy plan for decades to come, regardless of the governments to follow. This would allow our country to begin a reform process that would permit continuous and permanent development in public policy’s preventing us from constantly having to start over.

It is always difficult to get consensuses on these matters due to the fact that Criminal law has always been a propitious field for internal and public debate. The discussion on criminal matters permeates society and constantly challenges it. The very definition of crime; the concept we adopt on the purpose and function of the penalty; the debate on how to judge someone who is accused of committing a crime are, to mention a few, topics of ongoing and renewed debate. In addition, there is an increase in claims for security and the need for an efficient response from the criminal system.

A possible way to channel the search for a consensus may be through dialogue, with a vast participation from all sectors, permitting to lay down the groundwork for a comprehensive criminal policy that aims for common good over individual interests. The letter Pope Francis sent to the participants of the XIX International Congress on Penal Law and the III Congress of the Latin American Association of Penal Law and Criminology opens a new door for dialogue which cannot be wasted.

If we believe that Penal Law is a legitimate and useful tool to confront conflictive situations that put in crisis orderly and pacific coexistence in our society, then yes, it is possible to build certain consensuses that would allow common ground to work on in the future. On the other hand, if the Penal reform ends up imposing one school of thought over another by constant recrimination, we only put to waste this opportunity.

Starting Points

Ongoing improvements in education, promotion of a work culture, public and social efforts to eradicate poverty are, as long term goals, the best way to prevent crime. Without coordinated efforts on these issues, solely increasing penalties would be an illegitimate and inefficient response of Criminal Law in response to the societal demands for increase in security.

It also seems reasonable to think that the efficient functioning of the judicial system has a dissuasive effect on crime. The imposition of a criminal penalty proportionate to the crime committed is not an abuse of power by the State. On the contrary, it could have a possible social function to emend the legal system, contribute to community integration and avoid impunity. It is not the same to abide by the law and to violate it.

A comprehensive criminal policy cannot fail to address the white collar crimes and the growing percentage of organized crime that attack the institutions that consequently channel through corruption. Without just and equitable law enforcement of the Penal Law, any attempt at reform will merely be a mask that conceals the selective use of laws and will end up creating more injustice.

The penal and procedural laws may be modified and improved, but if the methodology we use to work in our courts remains that of the colonial era, any idea of change will be twice as difficult. The same applies to the system of enforcements. If we are going to start thinking of alternatives to imprisonment as the only response to crime, it is important that the reform includes a study of its implementation, to avoid that the new system be a way to eviscerate the social function meant for the sanction. When carrying out of a sentence cannot be controlled because of failures in the system, it looses all social meaning.

We cannot forget about the human factor. We need capable and committed people that believe the Criminal system to be a legitimate response to the real and concrete problem of crime. A Judicial school that forms Judges independent from public or private powers, and a University that provides lawyers that act as officers of the court, guarantors of legality and the dignity of their clients (whom they represent), all constitute essential points.

A non comprehensive Penal reform would generate adhesion and criticism, but it runs the risk of loosing all general contexts in which it should be implemented. A prudent way to tackle this project would be through dialogue and debate without the pressures generated at electoral time. Our country needs it and we can do it, no one can say the effort isn’t worth in the end.

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