The Failed War on Pre-Trial Detention: Evidence from a Quasi-Experimental Reform

62 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2020

See all articles by Angela Zorro Medina

Angela Zorro Medina

Yale Law School; University of Chicago - Department of Sociology

Date Written: January 15, 2020


During the 1990s and 2000s, 70 percent of Latin American countries transitioned from an inquisitorial criminal procedure to a U.S. adversarial model in a phenomenon known as the Latin American Criminal Procedure Revolution (LACPR). The LACPR involved more than 19 countries, and cost around 1.51 billion dollars. Almost two decades after its implementation, the impact of the most significant procedural reform undertaken on the continent remains largely unexplored. Using Colombia as a study case, I explore the LACPR effect in pre-trial detentions using two methodological strategies. First, I exploit the exogenous variation resulting from the LACPR gradual implementation to estimate a difference-in-difference and an event study model. Secondly, I estimate the impact of the LACPR in pre-trial admission and release rates using a regression analysis controlling for co-founding variables and time-trends. The results provide compelling evidence that the U.S. adversarial model decreased the number of inmates in pre-trial detention, specifically male detainees. However, the results show that the decline is not associated with a decrease in the use of pre-trial detention (human rights gain) but to an increase in procedural speediness (efficiency gain).

Keywords: Pre-Trial Detention, Criminal Reform, Procedural Law, Law and Economics, Latin America

JEL Classification: K14, K40, K41

Suggested Citation

Zorro Medina, Angela, The Failed War on Pre-Trial Detention: Evidence from a Quasi-Experimental Reform (January 15, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Angela Zorro Medina (Contact Author)

Yale Law School ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

University of Chicago - Department of Sociology ( email )

1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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