Southernizing Education and Reintegration Policies in Prisons: Exploring Prisons without Police and University Programs as an Instance of Generative Justice in the Global South

The reintegration and education of incarcerated individuals is a multifaceted issue and a significant challenge on a global scale. Innovative practices have been developed, including in the Global South, yet these initiatives have often been overlooked in academic research. This study uses the concept of Generative Justice (GJ) to examine the unique approach adopted by the Association for the Protection and Assistance of Convicts (APAC) in Brazil with its system of open prisons operating without police presence. Drawing upon data gathered from a 40-day ethnographic study, including participant observation and both open-ended and semi-structured interviews with APAC inmates, staff, and volunteers, this paper presents its findings.

Our research suggests that the APAC makes a substantial contribution to acknowledging the humanity of incarcerated individuals. It promotes the understanding that criminal behavior is within the realm of human possibilities, asserting that no individual should be deemed irredeemable. This is further exemplified by their practice of including individuals with lived prison experiences in their staff, thereby valuing and utilizing the insights gained from that experience. The APAC’s open prisons foster hope by engaging individuals within a low-security framework, irrespective of the crime committed, and facilitate social support through ongoing interaction between persons in prisons, volunteers, and staff. The aim is transformative: to bring about not just individual change but also institutional and community reform.

The APAC’s open prisons stand as an interesting example of Generative Justice practices, challenging the Eurocentric perspective of punishment from the Global South. They cultivate a sense of solidarity among incarcerated individuals and prison staff, as well as society at large.