The second chapter sets the scene, describing the legal and institutional context of non-custodial measures (medidas em meio aberto) in the Brazilian juvenile justice system, especially in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte. The Liberdade Assistida measure is a fundamental but fragile element of that system: on the one hand, the recent history of dictatorship in Brazil and the strong need to promote political discourse about democracy and human rights place non-custodial sentences at the core of the juvenile justice system. On the other hand, non-custodial measures depend on welfare state institutions, which lack resources and legitimacy in Brazilian society. At a local level, the Liberdade Assistida measure is implemented in a variety of organizational configurations. In Rio de Janeiro, at the time of my study, the programme was still recent; there were conflicts between different forms of professional knowledge, and institutional partnerships remained fragile. Conversely, Belo Horizonte was a ‘pioneering’ city with regard to non-custodial sentences. Its Liberdade Assistida programme was therefore better established, based on psychoanalytic knowledge enjoying substantial legitimacy, and able to draw on strong and predictable partnerships between social services and the juvenile court.