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ABSTRACT

Many democratic governments in Latin America have implemented broad judicial reforms, some of which are aimed at making criminal law and legal institutions more transparent and modern. Although such reforms are important for democratic development, scholars debate whether the reforms result in more rights for defendants and whether they jeopardize citizens' perceptions about security. Using two original datasets and a fixed-effects model, this study shows that groundbreaking criminal law reforms in Chile have improved certain aspects of defendants' rights by decreasing the number of individuals in pretrial detention. Chileans' perceptions about crime and violence in regions where the reforms were implemented also have improved. Chile's success appears to be due to the government's commitment to the reforms, as well as to concerted and consistent efforts by the police to fight crime. These results have implications for other countries implementing similar significant reforms.