Latin America & the Caribbean

Strengthening the Rule of Law and Advancing Access to Justice

For thirty years, NCSC has partnered with host country governments, civil society organizations, and development partners in Latin America to strengthen the rule of law and advance access to justice for all. Our programs improve administration of justice, strengthen judicial branch education and legal education, and promote modernization of justice systems and services.

Development Project for Model Courts (PROJUM) (January 2002 – July 2005)

NCSC provided support for the analysis and technological advancement for court management in Argentina. The overriding objectives of the project were to drive modernization of judicial management to organize the courts, build technical and administrative efficiencies to complement all automated functions, respond proficiently to requests for information, and otherwise improve judicial services to the community. NCSC, in cooperation with FORES, yielded lessons from implementation of innovative reforms, particularly in terms of court management and judicial administration, skills development, and evaluation of courts and court processes.  These lessons were adopted through an Argentine-led process and interventions by the FORES-NCSC team to promote replication throughout the country.

Development Project for Model Courts (PROJUM) (January 2002 – July 2005)

NCSC provided support for the analysis and technological advancement for court management in Argentina. The overriding objectives of the project were to drive modernization of judicial management to organize the courts, build technical and administrative efficiencies to complement all automated functions, respond proficiently to requests for information, and otherwise improve judicial services to the community. NCSC, in cooperation with FORES, yielded lessons from implementation of innovative reforms, particularly in terms of court management and judicial administration, skills development, and evaluation of courts and court processes.  These lessons were adopted through an Argentine-led process and interventions by the FORES-NCSC team to promote replication throughout the country.

Support for Rule of Law, Citizen Security and Law Enforcement (November 2015 – December 2018)

The Support for Rule of Law, Citizen Security and Law Enforcement Project aimed to build the capacity of Belize’s criminal justice systems to combat narco-trafficking and minimize the impact of transnational crimes impacting Belize, the U.S., and partner countries.

Court Administration Evaluation and Implementation Assessment (May 1993 – June 1993)

NCSC provided technical assistance to USAID/Bolivia for a court administration implementation assessment for pilot courts in La Paz and Tarija. The report included 1) an evaluation of existing court administration practices in the two pilot jurisdictions  2) a description of corrective measures to help improve court administration (i.e. training and professional development for existing personnel, development of efficient data collection, case tracking, and record management systems) and 3) an implementation plan for the recommended corrective measures.

Assessment of the Brazilian Judicial System (March 1996)

Provided USAID/Brasilia with a strategy to establish a judicial reform project in Brazil. NCSC assessed the Brazilian judicial system by conducting a review of writings and research on the Brazilian judicial system, examining the Federal/State court relationship with focus on where the problems and the opportunities for reform exist, and recommending strategies for key issues facing the judiciary.

Justice Sector Assistance to the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (September 2013 – March 2019)

The Justice Sector Assistance to the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative Program offered a flexible mechanism to assist judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and law enforcement officials in the Caribbean region to improve legal frameworks and human capacity to respond to crime and violence. The purpose of the CBSI program was to facilitate regional, sub-regional, and country-specific training, technical assistance, and mentoring for judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and/or law enforcement officials to pursue reforms or knowledge programs that: (1) Strengthen criminal justice legal frameworks and institutions; (2) Develop model criminal justice approaches across the Caribbean region; and (3) Build capacity to investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate complex criminal cases.

The program served the following countries: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The program was funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and implemented by NCSC.

Juvenile Restorative Justice Program (March 2019 – February 2021)

The Juvenile Restorative Justice Program in Costa Rica will enhance the support to Costa Rican institutions involved in the rehabilitation and reintegration of youth into society, the services available to victims of juvenile offenders and will facilitate access to justice for vulnerable juvenile populations. To achieve this goal, NCSC is implementing activities that address identified gaps in institutional capacity and target improvements to existing instruments and judicial processes in Costa Rica.

Program goals

  • Improve existing instruments for restorative justice procedures, by creating visual aids and reference materials to guide the application of juvenile restorative processes, with the goal of helping juvenile offenders, victims, and members of the community better understand their role in restorative justice processes.
  • Develop new protocols for different juvenile restorative justice scenarios with their respective visual aids, reference materials, and workshops for creation and validation
  • Create and/or distribute restorative justice tools and resources to the Judicial Branch personnel, juvenile offenders, victims of juvenile offenders, the public and members of the community.
  • Organize and deliver restorative justice training, consciousness raising activities, and outreach for youth, crime victims, Judicial Branch personnel, community support network members, civil society and the broader community.
  • Compile and maintain real-time statistical data on juvenile offenses in Costa Rica and changes in patterns that are detected that may be related to external or project-related factors.

Program to Strengthen Capacity to Detect Fraud, Prevent Corruption, and Implement an Effective Ethics Framework in Costa Rica’s Judiciary (September 2017 – September 2020)

The “Program to Strengthen Capacity to Detect Fraud, Prevent Corruption, and Implement an Effective Ethics Framework in Costa Rica’s Judiciary” seeks to aid the judicial branch by building the capacity of justice sector beneficiaries to improve outcomes in the identification, prevention, monitoring, and control of judicial corruption and fraud.

Program goals

  • Produce a comprehensive assessment with a focus on identification of drivers of corruption, corruption entry points, and procedural, training, and legislative gaps in the judicial branch
  • Design and implement a Judicial Anti-Corruption Framework including technical assistance and training for judicial personnel.
  • Create a robust capacity building training program utilizing distance learning and training of trainers (TOT) methodologies.
  • Assist in the revision of the judiciary’s Code of Ethics and Institutional Values document followed by a validation workshop with judicial branch personnel.

The program is funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and implemented by NCSC.

Costa Rica Justice Sector Reform and Prosecutorial Capacity Building Program (December 2014 – October 2016)

The Justice Sector Reform and Prosecutorial Capacity Building Program in Costa Rica worked on replacing the Juvenile Justice Community Support Network activities and Juvenile Rehabilitation training for the mapping of civil society organizations working with Juvenile Justice. Over the life of the project, NCSC supported the implementation of activities to support the institutional partnership between public and private institutions, dialogue with community leaders on the importance of restorative justice in juvenile justice cases, workshops on substance abuse treatment, capacity building training for rehabilitation centers personnel, and a diagnostic of restorative justice institutional policy. The program fulfilled its original objectives which entailed the provision of extensive support to the justice sector and relevant institutions in promoting alternative sentencing as an effective method to reintegrate youth into society. The program also increased technical capacity of over 1,400 Costa Rican law enforcement and justice sector actors over a total of 57 trainings. As well as supporting the adoption of a performance framework to improve the investigation, prosecution, and adjudication of criminal cases while increasing transparency and efficiency in its internal procedures and management.

This program was funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).

Justice Sector Reform in the Dominican Republic (November 1996 – April 1997)

Assisted the Government of the Dominican Republic in implementing key start-up activities to enhance independence, professionalism, and efficiency of the judiciary and related institutions. NCSC audited the Santo Domingo courts and Prosecutor’s Office (personnel, budget and procedures) and, working with the Commission for Justice Reform and Modernization and other justice system personnel, developed a report that covered: 1) design of a pilot program in Santo Domingo using four courts (two for civil and commercial law and two for criminal law) and the Prosecutor’s Office to improve efficiency, effectiveness and access, and 2) strategic guidance to the Commission on its overall reform process.

Juvenile Justice and Pre-Trial Detention Program (September 2014 – December 2016)

The Juvenile Justice and Pre-Trial Detention Program promoted the use of alternative sanctions to increase justice sector efficiency, facilitate due process, and improve outcomes for young people in contact with the justice system in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Panama. Judicial leadership and related juvenile justice actors demonstrated commitments to enhancing systems and services and improving outcomes for young people and their communities. The program strengthened restorative and rehabilitative approaches to juvenile justice to ensure young people were able to reintegrate into society.

The program is funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and implemented by NCSC.

Promoting Justice Program (March 2004 – August 2005)

The Promoting Justice Program (Pro-Justicia) promoted the modernization of the criminal justice system  in El Salvador through technical and material assistance, and training. The program aimed to strengthen the capacity of the Judicial Training School (ECJ) and improve instructional delivery. NCSC consultants worked with the ECJ team to develop courses which would contribute to skills building and practical capacity to advance reform efforts.

Technical Advisory Assistance (March 1999 – June 2000)

NCSC assisted in the data collection for and development of seven policy reports for justice reform; trained planners and statisticians and IT staff from all justice sector institutions including the Specialized Technical Unit (UTE); and provided recommendations to the UTE on how to develop a meaningful management information system for institutions and improve interaction between them.

Public Defender’s Office Evaluation (April 1993 – August 1993)

NCSC evaluated the effectiveness of the Public Defender’s Office by reviewing documentation (i.e. Public Ministry’s Organic Law, action plans and progresses reports of the Office, training needs assessments, data banks, the Office’s reorganization strategy and pertinent legislation, and interviewing personnel of the Procurator General’s Office.  NCSC also reviewed the available operating manuals and procedures to determine the operational division of labor and identified problem areas such as staffing and workload distribution and addressed the reorganization of the Office.

Assessment of the Attorney General’s Office (March 1992 – May 1992)

NCSC evaluated the effectiveness of the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) by reviewing documentation (i.e. Public Ministry’s Organic Law, action plans and reports of accomplishments of the AGO, training needs assessment, and data banks), and by conducting meetings with USAID and other U.S. Mission officials, and AGO’s personnel.  NCSC also examined and made recommendations on the case assignment, tracking and monitoring systems, and in areas of administrative support and technical training.  Further, NCSC reviewed in-house procedures to promote high standards of professional conduct and avoid conflict of interest; evaluated personnel management system including hiring, supervision, evaluation and compensation policies and made recommendations to reduce employee turnover and optimize employee performance; reviewed plans for expanding crime prevention activities; and examined existing coordination mechanisms between the AGO, the courts, and the police.  In addition, NCSC assessed the effectiveness of the regional office in existence (San Miguel) and provided recommendations regarding plans for additional regional offices; discussed plans for the incorporation of the Commission on Criminal Investigations into the Attorney General’s Office and suggested organizational modifications needed to ensure optimal functioning of the Commission within the AGO.

Juvenile Justice and Pre-Trial Detention in Guatemala, El Salvador and Panama (September 2014 – September 2016)

The Juvenile Justice and Pre-Trial Detention Program promoted the use of alternative sanctions toincrease justice sector efficiency, facilitate due process, and improve outcomes for young people in contact with the justice system in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Panama. Judicial leadership and related juvenile justice actors demonstrated commitments to enhancing systems and services and improving outcomes for young people and their communities. The program strengthened restorative and rehabilitative approaches to juvenile justice to ensure young people were able to reintegrate into society.

The program is funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and implemented by NCSC.

Program to Reduce the Delay in the Judicial Proceedings of the Judicial Branch of Guatemala (UNDP) (January 2003 – November 2006)

Previous research conducted by NCSC in Guatemala led to the implementation of this program focusing on producing an immediate reduction of the large number of files, and developing a qualifying medium that would make a judicial workload sustainable. Capacity building of the judicial institutions allowed the judges of the Guatemalan justice system to work in a more efficient and effective manner through accumulated records.

Strengthening Non-Formal Channels of Administration of Justice (July 1997 – June 1999)

The purpose of this program was to help develop conflict resolution capacity among community leaders and legal professionals in Guatemalan state and civic institutions.  It was a joint effort of NCSC and professionals affiliated with the Centro de Medicion y Resolucion de Conflictos in Leon, Nicaragua. The project created 9 mediation centers in a variety of environments, ranging from urban universities to communities of rural indigenous populations.  The centers handled 733 cases in a one-year period.  Of those cases leading to agreements, a follow-up survey conducted a month after the agreement was concluded showed that 73% were in full compliance and 22% were in partial compliance.

Prosecutorial Training Program (December 2018 – December 2020)

The Honduras Prosecutorial Training Program is a two-year cooperative agreement that works to strengthen the Honduran Public Ministry’s (MP) ability to fulfill its vital role in the justice system by improving quality of training provided to prosecutors through improved curriculum development, impact measurement, and training plan design. Through technical assistance and training provided by the Program, Honduran prosecutors will be better equipped to prosecute cases, including complex criminal cases, and the MP will have the capacity to maintain and sustain training programs.

Program goals

  • Address foundational training for new and existing prosecutors in Honduras.
  • Design and implement advanced and specialized training for Honduran prosecutors that builds upon the foundational skills training mentioned above as well as specific prosecutorial and criminal justice challenges.

The program is funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and implemented by NCSC.

Justice, Human Rights, and Security Strengthening (JHRSS) Activity in Honduras (November 2016 – December 2020)

Under subcontract with DAI Global LLC, NCSC supports the implementation of USAID’s Justice, Human Rights and Security Strengthening Program. This program aims to develop strategies for Honduran justice institutions increasing judicial process efficiency, effectiveness, and accessibility. NCSC’s local staff lead the institutional strengthening component of the program, (which addresses civil society, community security, and institutional strengthening). NCSC experts from the region and the U.S. provide technical assistance and training in specialized areas of expertise.

Program goals

  • Increase institutional capacity and effectiveness of security, human rights, and justice institutions.
  • Improve criminal justice procedures and practices through phased programming
  • Modernize systems and enable electronic filing and record-keeping

This program is funded by USAID and implemented by DAI in partnership with NCSC.

Criminal Court Administration Restructuring and Judicial Budget Assessment Program (December 1996 – December 1997)

The purpose of this project was to assess and provide technical assistance and training to the Honduran Court system in order to establish more democratic processes with greater citizen participation by supporting Honduran reformers in their efforts to create more ethical and effective judicial and prosecutorial organizations, as well as serving the interests of public good within a new, more transparent and effective oral adversarial criminal procedures system. NCSC provided training to the Honduran Court system in matters relating to budgeting, the transition to a new Criminal Procedure Code, administrative organization of the lower courts including allocations of personnel and procedural guidelines, and Judicial School.

Court Assessment (January 1992)

NCSC carried out an efficiency study and analysis of the Jamaican courts and made recommendations in the following areas: court management and organization of administrative support to the courts, record management - including court reporting, personnel management, delay reduction and calendar management, facility/space and equipment needs and plans.

Mexico Training Support (August 2017 – November 2019)

The Mexico Travel and Logistics Program for Training Support builds the capacity of Mexico’s criminal justice system and relevant beneficiaries by facilitating in-country, U.S., and third-country training activities. The beneficiaries include justice and security sector officials, corrections personnel, civil society, and other government officials to support the objectives of the Merida Initiative.

This program is funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and implemented by NCSC.

U.S. – Mexico Judicial Exchange Program (1997 –2004)

The USAID U.S.- Mexico Judicial Exchange Program “Partnership for Justice” was a seven-year cooperative agreement that facilitated the development and implementation of sweeping changes to the criminal justice system in Mexico at the state and Federal levels. Through cross-border dialogue, exchange and education opportunities, model court and mock trial initiatives, the program helped to introduce an oral-adversarial system at the state and Federal levels which were later expanded throughout Mexico via subsequent USAID assistance programs.

Program results

  • Cross-border conferences and roundtables established dialogue between judicial leaders from both countries on criminal justice reform.
  • Collaboration with executive and judicial branches established to develop, test, and implement criminal justice reforms.
  • Communications strategy developed and implemented to engage civil society, media, and the academic community concerning criminal justice reform, utilizing radio, print media, and public consultation.
USAID/Mexico Democracy and Governance (April 2004 – May 2005)

NCSC worked alongside USAID and Management Systems International (MSI) in the USAID/Mexico Democracy and Governance program to strengthen the rule of law and increase the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in Mexico. This expanded access to justice for marginalized populations supported code reforms, law implementation, and strengthened justice institutions at both federal and state levels. A second piece to this program’s objectives consisted of a special “Law and Justice Fund” to support activities on behalf of disadvantaged groups, including the poor, women, and indigenous populations.  The purpose of this program element was to foster innovation, flexibility, and civil society participation to secure the provision of essential public services to expand access to justice.

Nicaragua Gang Violence Prevention Program (August 2018 – August 2020)

The Gang Violence Prevention Program is a two-year grant that works to strengthen support from civil society organizations and community members who are willing to participate in the rehabilitation and reinsertion of gang members into society, as well as help to dissuade young at-risk adults from participating in criminal activities.

Program goals

  • Carry out an evaluation of gangs and gang-related activities working with youths in the departments of Managua, Masaya, and León and those among their municipalities with the statistically highest indices of violence.
  • Train young people to work as proactive agents that promote positive sustainable changes in their communities and raise awareness regarding gang-based and other types of violence.
  • Build a social support network through which gang members can learn about the personal experiences of their peers and learn to develop plans of action at the community level in order to promote a comprehensive and sustainable approach to leaving gang life behind.

This program is funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and implemented by NCSC.

Program to Strengthen Rule of Law in Nicaragua (August 2016 – August 2019)

The Program to Strengthen Rule of Law in Nicaragua was a three-year program focused on promoting rule of law principles among important sectors of Nicaraguan society using an innovative approach that emphasizes “learning by doing” and real-world application principles governing the rule of law. The program advanced local solutions to bring awareness of rule of law values around the country, engaged community networks, and provided useful communications and academic tools that can be used to apply rule of law principles as mechanisms to combat corruption and enhance the resilience of communities affected by crime, violence, and instability.

Program goals

  • Support for law students to improve their ethical and analytical capacity
  • Support for private sector capacity to advocate rule of law
  • Help CSOs improve their organizational capacity so that they include rule of law as a cross-cutting theme in their existing and future citizen security programs

This program is funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and implemented by NCSC.

Diagnostic of the Attorney General’s Office (May 1997 – August 1997)

NCSC assessed the Nicaraguan Attorney General’s Office (AGO) in order to strengthen its technical capabilities to carry out its functions.  The project involved a study of the legal authority and functions of the AGO, and the role of the prosecutor in the Nicaraguan criminal justice system.  In addition, an assessment was made of the current performance of the Office in carrying out its assigned roles and how its performance might have improved by changes in the criminal procedure code and the organic laws defining the AGO.  Areas of low performance were identified, and the final report made recommendations for improving institutional and individual performances. The recommendations included transitional steps that could be taken to move toward an AGO that delivers quality legal services.  The report also identified and provided a blueprint for areas that could benefit from technical and other types of assistance, including improved budget processes, management plan and personnel assignments, and long-term strategic planning.

Program to Promote Accountable Institutions in Panama (September 2018 – February 2020)

The Program to Promote Accountable Institutions in Panama aims to enhance the technical and organizational capacity of Panamanian civil society organizations (CSO) advocating for fair, open, and accountable governance by government institutions. The program improves the operational capacities, managerial skills and organizational sustainability of the CSOs and advances local solutions targeting increased CSO ability to obtain direct donor contributions and to mobilize members of society towards the promotion of a robust and vibrant CSO community.

Panama Travel & Logistics Program (December 2015 – December 2020)

Panama’s Travel & Logistics Program continues to support travel, conferences and training under initiatives targeting Justice Sector Reform, Vetted Units, Police Reform, Capacity Enhancement, Aviation, Asset Forfeiture and the Improvements of Border Management, Prison Management and Regional Maritime and Land Interdiction. NCSC provides the logistical support of these beneficiaries engaged in various operations and events sponsored by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs in Panama.

Evaluation of ICITAP Project (April 1994 – June 1994)

Evaluated the operation, design, effectiveness, and impact of the Panama Police Development Project from 1990 through 1994. Made recommendations and assisted the parties involved in determining changes to be made to the goals, structure and operation of the project.

Paraguay Rule of Law (September 1998 – June 2000)

The project assisted justice system institutions adapt to changes mandated by the adoption of a new system of criminal justice (from written/inquisitorial to oral/adversarial) and fostered increased access to justice through the creation of ADR pilot programs.  NCSC opened and staffed a project office in Asuncion. NCSC developed and distributed criminal procedures manuals to aid judges and other justice system personnel in implementing the new Criminal Procedure Code (CPC): prepared an organizational and administrative manual for the Public Defender’s Office; provided up-to-date information and analysis to strengthen judicial institutions and improve accountability; and established three mediation centers in Asuncion and Tobati. As a result, the Public Ministry Organic Law and the Transition Law were approved, and the draft Organic Law for the Judiciary was completed.  Judicial training was institutionalized through operating committees that conducted needs assessments and planning, and designated trainers in charge of training judicial officials.  To reduce backlog, 135,745 files of pending criminal cases were reviewed, 71 percent of which were purged.

Regional Training Support (September 2012 – Present)

Throughout the region, NCSC provides logistical support to facilitate in-country, U.S., and third-country training activities sponsored by U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and the Caribbean Basin. Training beneficiaries include justice and security sector officials, corrections personnel, civil society, and other public officials. The training programs seek to further efforts to strengthen criminal justice systems and counter transnational criminal networks impacting the U.S. and partner countries.

Training support program(s) are funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and implemented by NCSC.