The Latinamerican Observatorium for Research on Crime Policy and Criminal Law Reform (LatOCC) was established in close cooperation with the Max-Planck-Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law (Freiburg/Germany). LatOCC focuses on interdisciplinary and socio-legal studies on crime policies and criminal law reform in South America. Its primary objective is the enhancement of the effectiveness of criminal justice systems. The observatorium implements socio-legal research which provides for a basis of both, the making of cost effective criminal justice policies and the development of policies respecting human rights as well as principles of democracy, the rule of law and those values which are shared by the Mercosur and South America at large. LatOCC will also contribute to the building of criminological research capacity and offer training and education in the field of criminology and criminal justice research. Furthermore, LatOCC will establish links with international research institutes dealing with criminal law reform and will work towards strengthening the international network of research on criminal law reform and situating Latin America as a key actor in the field of international crime policy.
Latin America is faced with significant problems related to crime control and criminal law reform. Many of these problems are international in nature and not a characteristic for the South American region. New forms of crime such as organized crime, international terrorism, trafficking crimes, corruption, money laundering, environmental crime and various forms of economic crime have affected also Latin America as they are affecting other world regions. Some problems, however, are particularly marked in Latin America. Among these problems violence has plagued some South American countries for decades. Guerilla warfare and repressive and authoritarian regimes in the past have created a climate where impunity prevailed and where the judicial power was sidelined. Pervasive use of pretrial detention and imprisonment has resulted in serious problems of overcrowding and adverse conditions in prison and detention facilities. Drug trafficking has taken its toll from various countries in Latin America and continues to do so. The heritage of colonialism has found its expression in particular problems of accommodating autochthon and minority populations within the framework of criminal law and criminal justice.
Effective crime policies and sustainable criminal law reform have to be based on empirical evidence. Implementation of criminal law reform has to be studied carefully and evaluation has to be carried out in order to know not only whether policies have been successful or not but also in order to know why success has been achieved or why reforms have failed. Evidence based crime policies thus necessitate systematic and sustained socio-legal research and analysis. Pursuit of an interdisciplinary approach follows the concept of the “Gesamte Strafrechtswissenschaft” (Comprehensive Criminal Law Sciences). This approach encompasses criminal law doctrine, criminal policy and criminology, it covers the fields of substantive and procedural criminal law, enforcement of sentences and correctional law.