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The Statue of the Child and Adolescent (ECA) passed in 1990 was a major advancement in juvenile justice in Brazil. In the first place, it solidified into national law the international treaties on the rights of children and adolescents of its day. Secondly, it moved juvenile justice in Brazil away from a guardianship model to a full protection model that conceived of children as full legal subjects. This resulted in the decoupling of practices and services for at-risk and abandoned youth from those for juvenile offenders. However, in practice, the legacy of the guardianship model has been hard to break. The police and juvenile courts continue to equate juvenile offenders with poor, non-white youths residing in the slums or peripheral neighborhoods of urban centers, thus continuing what some have referred to as the “criminalization of poverty” (Marinho 2012). While the expansion of the use of noncustodial sanctions, such as supervised probation, has been on the rise, the racial and economic biases present in the juvenile justice system echo the same biases present in the adult criminal justice system.

Countering these biases in the juvenile justice system needs to be done in conjunction with countering these same biases in the general criminal justice system, a task made all the more difficult with the rising crime rates, both for juveniles and adults in Brazil.

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