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  RESTORATIVE JUSTICE IN BOLIVIA – FIRST STIRRINGS   Article for Restorative Justice Consortium Newsletter, UK January 2010   Marian Liebmann   My visit to Bolivia in 2008 was as a member of the Bolivia Quaker Study Tour, a fascinating experience. Before the tour I did a few workshops for different groups, in art therapy and in conflict resolution and mediation. One of these was for CEREFE (an institution for children with disabilities and their parents) whose director was so taken with the workshop that he wanted me to come back this year and train all his staff in mediation skills, to deal better with the many conflicts in the school. A particular issue was the long-running conflict between education and health staff. CEREFE is situated in El Alto, a shanty town of 80,000 above La Paz city.   My interpreter for these workshops was a young Quaker Aymara woman I had met last year, Emma Condori Mamani, who worked as an English teacher at two Quaker schools in...


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La Paz. She translated all the handouts I sent, and CEREFE photocopied them. I repeated the introductory workshop from last year for those who had not attended it, and then went on to the mediation training.  The timetable for the mediation training was reduced twice, owing to unforeseen circumstances, so I had to re-write the course each time. Participants did not attend every session, or on time (Bolivian time plus their work shifts).   However, it went well for those who attended all the sessions, and we used a role play to work on the health/ education conflict. The group also made a plan to introduce a mediation scheme in the institution. Some unexpected opportunities also arose. A meeting with the coordinator of Quaker Bolivia Link led to discussion of the conflict accompanying social change (due to the different philosophy of the new government), leading to an increased need for conflict resolution and mediation skills. She wanted to get mediation materials...

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translated into Spanish. In 2008 I had made contact with Ramiro Llanos, coordinator of Prison Fellowship Bolivia, and we had communicated via an interpreter. This year when we met, he asked if I would do a short input on their new Restorative Justice course. This had been set up in response to a new National Plan for criminal justice, which focused on restorative justice as the way forward. This plan was designed to be more in keeping with the rest of new government thinking under President Juan Evo Morales Ayma, aimed at living in harmony with the environment and other people. Prison Fellowship Bolivia was also aware of restorative justice initiatives in other Latin American countries.  The first course ran from March to August 2009, every Saturday afternoon, at two venues: one in La Paz and one in El Alto. It included: Philosophy and principles of restorative justice Comparison between retributive and restorative justice Restorative practices and programmes

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  The APAC experience (a ‘restorative prison’ programme started in Brazil, and available in several countries, promoted by Prison Fellowship) Youth in conflict with the law Post-legal conciliation Restoration and rehabilitation Prisoners and human rights Other Latin American experience Lynette Parker of Prison Fellowship International also helped with this course. My role was to provide a short input on restorative justice in the UK, to show participants that RJ was not just a Latin American concept, but is also available elsewhere. More courses are planned and they would like to run some RJ pilot projects - but funding is an obstacle.

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Another development is a pilot of Sycamore Tree, the Prison Fellowship victim awareness course for prisoners, based on the Bible story of Zacchaeus. This was run by a team of facilitators including Julie Noble, a British Prison Fellowship volunteer working for ten years in Oruro, a three-hour bus journey south of La Paz. Her colleague Karen Thompson adapted the Sycamore Tree course to be more suitable for the Bolivian context in being more oral and interactive. They ran two such courses, one with seven participants who were drug offenders, and another with a group serving sentences for murder and manslaughter. As the women’s prison in Oruro is inside the men’s prison, both these courses ran with a mixed group of participants. Prison Fellowship was planning to hold another course in October 2009 (again with drug offenders), and later to develop their work to include direct meetings between victims and offenders.

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Although Bolivia is a very poor country, the enthusiasm and voluntary effort, combined with a new government attitude, could mean that restorative practices are established there within a fairly short time.  Further information about restorative justice in Bolivia from Ramiro Llanos, e-mail or, Julie Noble, e-mail: , or Lynette Parker, e-mail: