Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

David S. Brown

Second Advisor

Andy Baker

Third Advisor

Carew Boulding

Fourth Advisor

Vanessa Baird

Fifth Advisor

Hillary Potter


My dissertation investigates the puzzle of rising crime across Latin America amidst improvements in human development and democratic governance. While efforts have been made to reform the criminal justice system, we do not know the conditions under which judicial reform effectively deters homicide. Drawing on four months of fieldwork in Mexico as well as a novel cross-national dataset and a sub-national design in Mexico, I find that criminal procedure reforms aimed at improving due process are not sufficient for deterring homicide in places where non-state actors (i.e. drug cartels) effectively challenge the state’s monopoly of violence. In these settings, citizens are less willing to cooperate with the formal system of justice - despite reform efforts - primarily out of fear. Without society cooperation, the prosecution is less equipped to investigate, prosecute, and solve crime, resulting in impunity and little deterrence. In selecting remedies to combat homicide in Latin America, different communities need to pursue different strategies. While due process reforms are attractive policy solutions given their higher respect for human rights, they are effective only in places where the state maintains its monopoly of violence. The research demonstrates the challenge for new democracies in establishing the rule of law where judiciaries must simultaneously meet rising democratic demands while effectively combating violence.