Explanations for the Punitive Turn of Crime Policy in Bolivia, 2006-2016


In the last decade, Bolivia, as with most countries in the region, has seen an unprecedented increase of its prison population. This is often explained as the consequence of a punitive populism sweeping Latin America. Our article investigates what triggered this punitive turn in Bolivia by identifying some of the factors that impact crime policy and growing prison populations since the election of president Evo Morales in 2006. We argue that a complex array of local and international factors and shifts in crime policy to harden approaches to domestic violence led to steep increases in remand populations. Combined with other inefficiencies in the criminal justice system, this led to sustained increases in the prison population throughout most of this period. This study is based on new and previously unstudied statistical data produced by the Bolivian institutions in charge of implementing crime policy.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content in this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Published: 2018-12-01
Pages:33 to 50
Fetching Scopus statistics
Fetching Web of Science statistics
How to Cite
Stippel, J. and Serrano Moreno, J. E. (2018) “Explanations for the Punitive Turn of Crime Policy in Bolivia, 2006-2016”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 7(4), pp. 33-50. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.v7i4.1075.

Author Biographies

Universidad Central de Chile

Jörg Stippel studied law at Münster University in Germany and the Catholic University of La Paz in Bolivia. Starting in 1999 as a German lawyer he began to work as an advisor to the Ministry of Justice and Bolivian congress on the implementation of the new law on criminal proceedings. He drafted the proposal for the act on the rights of prisoners, currently in force and the amnesty law passed at the beginning of the new century. From 2001 to 2006, he was based in Santiago, Chile, and headed the German Government project that assisted the Chilean Ministry of Justice and the institutions of the penal justice system, in the implementation of a radical reform on the criminal proceedings. In 2006 he started a Ph.D. thesis at Bremen University in Germany on the efficiency of legal remedies available to prisoners in Chile, which he finished in 2010 with distinction (summa cum laude). Beside his academic effort, he worked as an advisor to the Chilean Ministry of Justice on the reform of the prison legislation (2008 to 2010). From 2009 to 2011 he headed a German Government project that assisted the Liberian Supreme Court and the Ministry of Justice in rebuilding the justice system. Part of this effort was the establishment of a Judicial training Institute and the implementation of a system of probation. From 2012 to 2014, Jörg worked at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Human Rights as part of the team of the former UN Special Rapporteur against Torture, Manfred Nowak (2004 -2010). Here he worked as an advisor on prison reform and torture prevention in Uruguay and the Republic of Moldova. From 2014 to 2016, Jörg served as an advisor to the public defense institution in Ecuador. He was part of a campaign that lead to the early release of about 2000 prisoners and established a specialized service for the defense of prisoners. In 2016 Jörg moved back to Chile where he worked as researcher at the Universidad Central of Chile. Parallel to this, he served as an advisor to the Bolivian Congress and Senate, being part of the team that drafted the new criminal and criminal proceedings act (Código del Sistema Penal). Jörg has drafted legislation in Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay and Liberia concerning the rights of prisoners and has launched legal proceedings in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Jörg published several books and articles on crime policy and prison systems and edited various publication evaluating the advances in the implementation of the criminal justice reforms in South America.

Assistant Professor at Unvisersidad Autónoma (Santiago, Chile), PhD. in Policital Science at Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne and Attorney member of the Madrid Bar Association. I have taught at universities in Chile, Spain and France and developed research in political science and public law. I have also worked as a lawyer in Spain and a as public policy analyst for institutions such as UNESCO in France or the Ministry of Culture in Chile. I am currently developing a research on the administrative integration of Hong Kong in the People's Republic of China.