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Alternative Sanctions for Juvenile

There are four noncustodial sanctions for juveniles stipulated in the ECA: warnings, reparation of harm, community service, and supervised probation. Unlike the custodial sanctions for juveniles, which are carried out by state agencies, the noncustodial sanctions are under the jurisdiction of the municipal authorities. The warning is a verbal admonition, formalized in writing. The reparation of harm consists of compensation, restitution, or replacement of the property of the victim. This sanction is limited to infractions committed against property. Community service consists of performing works free of compensation and in the general interest for a period of no more than 6 months. These works are performed in social service entities, hospitals, schools, and other similar agencies as well as community and government programs. Community service activities are designed by taking into account the aptitudes of the juvenile and do not exceed more than 8 h of service weekly. They are carried out on the weekends, holidays, or weekdays in such a manner as not to interfere with school or employment activities.

Supervised probation, according to the ECA, should be applied in cases where the intention is to “accompany, aid, and advise” the juvenile. In practice, it consists of the designation of a supervisor to accompany the juvenile for a period of 6 months. This period can be extended, suspended, or substituted by another sanction, based on the recommendation of the supervisor, the state’s attorney’s office, or the public defender (or juvenile’s defense attorney). The supervisor has the responsibility to (1) socially advance the juvenile and his or her family, providing them advice and enrolling them, if necessary, in official or community programs and social aid and assistance; (2) supervise the frequency of school attendance; and (3) aid the juvenile in his or her further professionalization and insertion into the job market. These activities are carried out within the parameters of specific municipal programs, designed to support and oversee the responsibilities of the supervisor. The exact form of this program and their specific activities or structure vary by municipality.

In the case of the municipality of Belo Horizonte, the third largest city in Brazil, for example, the Assisted Liberty Program (Programa Liberdade Assistida) is implemented by the Municipal Secretary of Social Assistance in partnership with the Catholic Church and the juvenile court. It consists of a program center in the nine administrative units of the city where juveniles meet on a weekly basis with an interdisciplinary team (social service, psychology, and psychoanalysis). This team articulates necessary actions and referrals. The supervisors are volunteers from the community, referred to as social advisors, whose duties are more mentorship than that of traditional case supervisor.

Regardless of the plurality of sanctions and the stipulation in the ECA that confinement is to be used sparingly, confinement continues to be the sanction of choice in the juvenile courts for cases of homicide, drug trafficking, and robbery (Marinho 2012). In addition, extrajudicial factors such as years of schooling, family structure, and family income appear to be significant factors in the determination of sanctions, especially the choice between noncustodial and custodial options. Juveniles enrolled in school or with more schooling, living with both parents and in families with higher incomes, are more likely to receive noncustodial sanctions than juveniles who are not in school or who come from low-income families, for similar infractions (Silva 2011; Marinho 2012).

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