In 1989, when Puerto Rico’s feminist movement fought a battle inside the halls of the Capitol to get Act 54 passed, one of the concessions it had to make was to include in the legislation the possibility that the aggressors would avoid jail time if they participated in a reeducation, or diversion program, to reeducate themselves over their sexist behaviors. After completing the program, the conviction is removed from their criminal record, as if they had never been guilty. “I remember perfectly the conversations between those of us who were there lobbying for the legislation, that we didn’t know very well how successful these programs could be,” said María Dolores Fernós, one of the promoters of the Prevention and Intervention with Domestic Violence Act, and who later became the first director of the Women’s Advocate Office. The concerns that the feminists had about reeducation programs three decades ago are still valid today, as there is no evidence to support their effectiveness and the entity responsible for their supervision, the Regulatory Board of Reeducation and Retraining Programs for Aggressors Act, which was created in 2000, has been mostly idle, while not producing a single report on the programs.
Neither the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR), the Courts Administration, nor the Women’s Advocate Office provided information to the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) on the number of participants, levels of re-offense, or success rates in re-educating aggressors. The lack of a curriculum for programs that promote real change, that allow the victims to take classes together with their aggressors, and the absence of continuous education for the therapists are part of the problem.