Start - End
2017 - 2023
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As part of its portfolio of technical assistance projects focused on alternatives to incarceration (ATIs), the Institutional Strengthening Unit has collaborated with Mexico for well over a decade in the development, adoption, and expansion of therapeutic justice programs there.

Like many ATIs, Mexico’s therapeutic justice programs are primarily designed for criminal offenders who have an underlying substance abuse disorder driving their criminal conduct. Such conduct does not necessarily refer to crimes related to substance use (e.g., possession), but also to those committed while under the influence of psychoactive substances (e.g., driving under the influence) and those committed to obtain money to purchase such substances (e.g., theft).

These programs provide these justice-involved individuals with the option of choosing treatment and rehabilitation under judicial supervision, and in coordination with a multidisciplinary team, instead of incarceration. Successful completion of the program results in the pending charges being dropped. Should the program not be successfully completed, the participant simply returns to traditional criminal justice proceedings. Moreover, as participation is completely voluntary, participants can choose to leave the program at any time.

By focusing on the treatment of the underlying substance abuse disorder, ATI programs address the underlying cause of the criminal conduct. They also account for the possibility of relapses, which are seen as a normal part of the treatment process. As such, alternatives to incarceration can help break the "revolving door" of criminal behavior, substance abuse, and imprisonment.

Since 2008, CICAD has informally assisted Mexico with its first ATI pilot program, a therapeutic justice treatment court in Guadalupe, Nuevo Léon. In 2013, this collaboration coalesced around a multi-year project that assisted with the expansion of the pilot program in Nuevo León; the development of pilots in four additional Mexican states (Chihuahua, Durango, Estado de México, and Morelos); and the creation of a methodological guide for therapeutic justice in Mexico (which was superseded in 2020 by the Mexican Guía de Justicia Terapéutica). It also sponsored the publication of the first diagnostic study of therapeutic justice programs in Mexico, centered on the program in Guadalupe.

In 2020, the Government of Mexico and the OAS agreed to renew the project and expand its scope further. This second phase aims to (1) bolster and expand the existing five programs; (2) establish additional pilot programs across Mexico; (3) develop a curriculum and other materials to train officials in the future; (4) train a cadre of expert Mexican trainers to provide long-term sustainability; and (5) further develop monitoring and evaluation activities surrounding the program. As of September 2022, one new Mexican state has launched pilot programs (Hidalgo), with programs in several other states in advanced stages of planning.

These programs employ a multi-sector approach, combining expertise from the criminal justice system, public health, and social integration services. As such, they also stimulate collaboration between those sectors more broadly, and help provide more comprehensive rehabilitation options to eligible participants. Additionally, the program has presented the Case Care Management (CCM) model to Mexican states as part of its technical assistance activities.

  • Consolidate and expand existing therapeutic justice programs in five Mexican states (Chihuahua, Durango, Mexico, Morelos, and Nuevo León).
  • Pilot and consolidate therapeutic justice programs in additional Mexican states.
  • Train Mexican therapeutic justice operators in best practices for operating their programs.
  • Carry out monitoring and evaluation programs (in partnership with the Center for Court Innovation (CCI), and train officials in monitoring and evaluation best practices.
  • Create protocols and guidelines for existing and new Mexican therapeutic justice programs.
  • Create curricular and other therapeutic justice training materials.
  • Promote long-term horizontal cooperation on therapeutic justice and ATIs.
  • Train Mexican therapeutic justice operators in basic principles of therapeutic justice (based on the Mexican Guía de Justicia Terapéutica).
  • Assist with launching pilot therapeutic justice programs, including the creation of protocols, manuals, and other documentation.
  • Create a cadre of trained Mexican experts in therapeutic justice to train other operators.
  • Support pilot programs with assistance from trained experts.
  • Assist with integration of social services with therapeutic justice programs.
  • Develop Mexican therapeutic justice program curriculum.
  • Develop remote treatment protocols for Mexican therapeutic justice programs, via a partnership with the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
  • Provide initial training on the Case Care Management (CCM) curriculum to existing therapeutic justice programs.
More Results
Trained 969 professionals in best practices for operating therapeutic justice programs since the start of this phase of the program.
Launched a new therapeutic justice pilot program in the Mexican state of Hidalgo.
Trained 59 Mexican experts as Trainers in Basic Principles of the Therapeutic Justice Program.
Beneficiary Countries
More Publications
January, 2016
Mexican Therapeutic Justice Program Model for people with psychoactive substance use: Methodological Guide
Only available in Spanish
Antonio Lomba
Unit Chief
Karelly Villanueva
Program Manager
Luisa Neira
Financial Officer
Santiago Moreno
Program Officer
Strategic Partners