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PF Chile’s APAC programme: 10 years of transforming lives and prison units

In late 2009, PF Chile celebrated the 10-year anniversary of its implementation of the APAC methodology. Since its start in the Centro de Detención Preventiva (CDP) de Puente Alto, PF Chile has expanded the programme into 10 prisons, serving 1,955 prisoners – both male and female. This expansion was possible because of the strong support of the Gendarmeria de Chile (the governmental body responsible for prisons in Chile) generated by APAC’s positive outcomes.

A recent thesis written by three officers from the Gendarmeria, explores the history of APAC in Puente Alto and the positive impact of the programme on prisoners, the prison environment, and prison staff.  The APAC methodology was first introduced in Tower 1 at Puente Alto. Two years later the unit chief asked PF Chile to implement the methodology in Tower 2. At that time, prisoners in Tower 2 were considered especially aggressive as demonstrated by the large numbers of disciplinary actions and high use of isolation. They were also classified as having a high commitment to criminal activity.

PF Chile began by sending volunteers and some tower 1 prisoners into Tower 2 to begin the evangelisation process. They encountered difficulty and sometimes met violent responses from the prisoners. In time, however, the methodology became well established with a corresponding decrease in violence and disciplinary actions against prisoners.

Tower 2’s operating chief reported that the prisoners participating in APAC had a high level of good conduct and, when compared with the rest of the population, few weapons, drugs, alcoholic drinks, and disciplinary infractions. They voluntarily complied with requests from the prison, undertook assigned tasks, and maintained cleanliness. This is particularly impressive because prisoners participating in APAC tend to have sentences of longer than five years and long criminal histories.

The change in prisoner behaviour had a beneficial effect for the prison personnel in the unit: they reported experiencing a higher level of personal security in carrying out their duties.

 The authors of the study concluded that the APAC methodology “has achieved a success that the rest of the interventions initiated by the Sub-Dirreción Tecnica have not achieved, permitting a profound cognitive and behavioural change of the prisoners.”

 The full text of the thesis (in Spanish) is available online.


February 2010

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