Planning consultant Raul Jungmann is tackling nothing less than the entire justice and security system in Brazil, working to reform its archaic institutions through popular participation.
Raul began a career of analyzing power structures and influencing public issues during his student activist days in Sao Paulo in the early 1970. Since then, he has made of career of advising the industry and education sectors of Brazil, both as an independent consultant and as a government employee. Working within the government has given Raul an insight into how the public sector functions or fails to function. During these years, he has organized numerous seminars, analyzed organizational models of NGOs, written a book evaluating a former governor's term of office, and published newspaper articles on national and international issues. One of Raul's innovations during these years was a program called "Adopt a School," in which businesses sponsored construction of new schools. As one of its several beneficial side-effects, the program's emphasis on community participation reduced rates of truancy in Recife, Salvador, San Paulo, and the other cities where it operates.
Raul believes democratizing Brazil's creaky justice and security system is the only chance to save it. A discredited police force and backlogged courts have caused citizens to mistrust the system. Involving the people in reforming the system offers a bracing challenge but also an opportunity for grass-roots groups, larger non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local governments to push together for citizen control over organs supposedly created to ensure public safety. As citizens become aware of who's responsible for enforcing which laws, and aware of their own rights under the law, they can build public agencies accountable for protecting them. Citizens, according to Raul, must also take a more active part in crime prevention. Replacing centralized state police with responsive local police forces might be one outcome of greater public awareness of security issues. As news media recently freed from censorship expose decay, violence, and corruption within the system, citizens have a chance to recognize the system's disintegration and demand a part in shaping one that serves the people rather than intimidating and oppressing them. In Brazil, and through much of Latin America, this is an important historical moment.
A shocking sign of the deterioration of police morale and credibility came in 1989, when then Governor Amazonino Mendes of Amazonas state disbanded that state's civil police force and created an all-new, unified police, saying citizens had become more afraid of police than of bandits. Activists in other states praised Governor Mendes' action and asked his advice on how they could disband police in their home states. Hair-raising tales of police and justice corruption add fear to the despair citizens often suffer as victims or suspects of crimes. Cases can take years to come to trial, and judges sometimes have backlogs of tens of thousands of cases. Most crimes, however, are not even investigated, much less brought to trial.Raul points out historical factors that have fostered inefficiency, corruption, and human rights abuses in recent decades. He notes, for example, that state military police were created during the dictatorship period primarily to repress political disturbances. Despite the name, military police do not belong to the armed forces but serve their respective governors. Civil police, responsible for investigating crimes, serve the judiciary. The judiciary, who offered silence about state crimes in return for larger salaries and cars, used the civil police to inform on possible political dissidents. As political repression ended in the 1980's, the executive and judiciary segments of law enforcement diverged, and the gap gave rise to territoriality, or what Raul calls corporativism, with some judges and police chiefs carving out territories of power. Some battles have erupted between civil and military police. And both groups complain that judges, with their recent independence and power to decide cases, too often let criminals go free under laws that forgive first-time offenders.True justice and security also are hampered by bureaucracy and by low levels of material and technological support. Criminals do not rank high on most lists of national or state budget priorities, and frustration promotes an attitude among many Brazilians that the only way to resolve crime is to kill suspects or even possible future suspects. Brazil has a considerable computer industry, but law enforcement and judiciary agencies remain stuck with the most rudimentary means of pursuing suspects, investigating cases, processing dates, and keeping records. Jail and prison crowding aggravate Brazil's much-criticized record on human rights abuses by police and jailers. Raul fears recession will further delay modernization of the sector. Looking beyond Brazil, Raul sees similar issues in most of Latin America as a threat to budding democracies.Previous efforts to correct Brazil justice system have made little impact because they have failed to address systemic decay and incorporate the poor masses from which come most crime victims and suspects.
Raul proposes working on a local level to an extent never before tried in Brazil. He has three broad objectives: to assist non-governmental organizations that work with socially marginalized populations;to develop proposals, studies, and technologies for security and justice destined for both public powers and civil society; to join information, people, movements, and ideas to stimulate awareness of citizenship and basic rights.Specifically, Raul wants to establish neighborhood security patrols and preventive teams to deal with chronic problems such as domestic violence and drug abuse. The hope is that local control over law enforcement, at the municipal rather than the state level, will empower citizens to demand a responsive local police force.He also plans to start a federation of prisoners and their families, who can work to assure better prison conditions and timely release of prisoners who have served their terms. Local watchdog groups can follow individual legal proceedings, from arrest through resolution, to ensure that suspects rights are observed. A "Zero Violence" campaign can be instituted among these groups with help from municipal governments, which will initiate surveys of violence in the area. NGO's can find ample opportunity to assist such efforts. These are means for the Brazilian people to begin gaining control over the justice and security system that vitally affects their lives but over which they have not exercised their will.On a larger scale, Raul intends to provide reliable information about the current system, such as currently unavailable prison census reports, to promote municipal and national debate on the issues. Raul has begun the groundwork for such an organization in his home state of Pernambuco and plans to extend the network eventually through all Brazil, always working toward awareness and involvement at a local level.