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Reducing Prison Overcrowding: Interventions with Public Defenders


This project will equip public defenders with the tools necessary to increase conditional releases ordered by judges during defendants’ initial hearings, and reduce the number of preventive detentions ordered. Those detained at this judicial stage are frequently sent to pretrial detention for lack of basic information provided by defendants and their families during the first 72 hours following their arrest. The pilot project developed by the Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) will consist of: 1) training criminal public defenders in interview techniques to improve data collection from defendants and their families, as well as relevant knowledge regarding provisional detention, which could be useful for providing effective petitions during initial judicial hearings; 2) the development and use of new interview forms to standardize and improve the quality of information collected by public defenders from defendants and their family members; and 3) the elaboration and provision of leaflets to provide detailed instructions to detainees' families regarding information needed to obtain conditional release, rather than provisional detention, during defendants’ initial hearings.

Despite the efforts of the PGR to provide necessary support to detainees and their families, the institution would benefit from additional tools to help reduce the number of defendants who receive unnecessary pre-trial preventive detention. The objective of the project is to increase the number of alternative measures, such as conditional release, that are granted by judges during initial hearings, as opposed to the application of preventive detentions. Should this project achieve its objectives, the intervention could be scaled up, helping to alleviate in the medium term the chronic problem of prison overcrowding that El Salvador currently faces. By randomly assigning shifts of public defenders (each consisting of five public defenders per shift) within four offices of the PGR (San Salvador, Soyapango, Apopa, and La Libertad) that will receive this intervention, it will be possible to identify the causal impact of the intervention.

To find out more about this project, click here


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