This commentary surveys some of the trends and gaps in current research
on criminal justice reform in Latin America ¿ with a focus on Brazil, and on two
specific areas : police and prison/penal reform. It explores two principal themes: the
uneven and thin production of knowledge about criminal justice issues ; and the
impact this has on policy reforms and on the ways in which these are framed and
interpreted in terms of their relative success and failure. Overall it argues that we still
know very little about criminal justice institutions and the actors within them. We
also need many more finely-grained analyses of the dynamics of reform efforts and
of the policy environments in which these take place in order to understand how
and why reform initiatives are often derailed or subverted, and, more rarely, flourish and can be embedded and replicated.
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