Discussion on measuring criminal justice and criminal justice interventions in Dakar, Senegal, on 10 and 11 June 2014.

A discussion meeting on measuring criminal justice and criminal justice interventions took place in Dakar, Senegal, on 10 and 11 June 2014. Participants provided input on the ways in which measurement is occurring in the African context.

Challenges of measurement in the African context, as well as ways of meeting those challenges were discussed.  Participants from 13 countries attended the discussions, many of which could provide interesting insights into countries' criminal justice systems. A highlight of the discussions was the interesting data already being collected and resulting in advocacy and reform. For example, a project run by the organisation CLEAN ran in Lagos state in Nigeria took prison exit samples of people leaving prison, and calculated that it took an average of 142 days to process a file, and that the average duration between arrest and sentencing was 4 years. The project resulted in the Attorney General better understanding bottlenecks in the criminal justice system (too many lawyers examining a file, too many cases struck off the roll), and to send specific directives to the Directors of Public Prosecutions, including one to report to him regularly, which brought a reduction in the processing of files, in the first three months of the project, from 142 to 44 days. In Zambia, a project measuring the extent to which bail is granted found in an reas were pre-trial release was low that title deeds were asked of sureties even in areas comprising all traditional land with no private property ownership.

PPJA researcher Jean Redpath provided some input on measurement methods in the African context, based on her experiences with CSPRI-PPJA research. She noted that detailed population data regarding prisoners and detainees is seldom available, and states are often characterised by low levels of state investment in record management in the criminal justice system. Furthermore, states tend to concentrate on managing records rather than on creating data or doing research. The unsuitability of electronic record-keeping in many countries due to electricity supply and information technology challenges means most records are in paper form. The varying quality and completeness of paper records  within and among countries also poses challenges. Lack of population about whole prison or detainee populations sample data must often be used. Samples can be drawn from  people in prison as at a date (“snapshot” data), from admissions to prisons, or from releases from prisons ("exit sample"). Even where political repression prevents useful access to official records,alternatives are available for research purposes which can provide some findings, for example in publicly available records such as judgments, or in records held by paralegal or other organisations. If information is missing from one part of the system, inferences can often be made from data kept by another part of the system.

Jean also provide input on indicator development. She noted that to be effective, indicators must be relevant, in that they show us something about the system that we need to know or which is important; they are easy to understand, even by people who are not experts; they are reliable in that we can trust the information that the indicator is providing; and they are based on accessible data,so that the information is available or can be gathered while there is still time to act on the findings. She pointed out that aspects particualr to the African context may affect the way indicators are constructed on pre-trial justice for Africa, as the traditionally used indicators may not be appropriate. For example, measuring pre-trial detention populations only in prisons makes no sense in a country where people are held in the pre-trial phase for extended periods in police cells and not in prisons. Comparing countries' per 100 000 rates of incarceration may also not be appropriate in Africa where the indicator is highly influenced by the demographic age-profile of the country. Comparison per 100 000 adults is probably preferred. Overcrowding indicators should also take into account the amount of time people spend locked up in cells, as in some countries being held inside only occurs in the night hours, significanlty ameliorating the overall impact of overcrowding. In other countries people are let out of the cells for only an hour; indicators of overcrowding should capture these differences.

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