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Home > Research & Publications > Measuring the Performance of Criminal Justice Systems > Indicators in Development: Safety and Justice > Indicators Under Development > Country-Led Indicators > Coordination Across Justice Agencies
The Attorney General in Lagos, Nigeria used the results of the Ikoyi prison research to start a cycle of indicator development, directing the Solicitor General to develop an indicator of the timeliness of prosecution and then inviting the heads of other agencies to make their own contributions to better management of pretrial detention.
With research support from the Harvard/CLEEN team, the Solicitor General discovered that in 2009 prosecutors took on average 144 days to file legal advice in cases of homicide and armed robbery, and proposed to reduce this period to 30 days. By October 2010 prosecutors required only 44 days to file legal advice.
Pleased with the results, the Attorney General hired a new project coordinator to continuously track progress and to work with the police, prisons, and courts to develop indicators together in ways that help expedite and align their joint operations. A case study of exit samples as a tool of indicator development will describe these results in greater detail.
The United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) documents recommend that country programs seek opportunities to strengthen the relationship between traditional and formal justice systems, suggesting that “a process of dialogue, mutual recognition, and small scale practical experience” will promote “an inclusive process for determining the role of the customary system in the future.” The Helpdesk research report advises that “civil society may be better situated” to facilitate this kind of dialogue on account of greater knowledge and understanding of “political dynamics and balances of power.” At the same time, there appears to be recognition that such dialogue could enhance the regulatory capacity of state systems over traditional systems, which might squish the latter’s ability to respond independently and creatively to local problems. Particularly with the prospect of codification, or just writing down the norms that guide decisions in traditional system, there is a worry that deeper support for the formal system might deprive customary justice of some of its greatest assets and value for development.
Our experience developing a prototype indicator of the relationship between village and district courts in Papua New Guinea (PNG) confirms this concern but also may suggest a way to navigate the dilemma. In PNG village courts cannot impose imprisonment or make an arrest of a truant defendant or respondent without the prior approval of a District Court, the lowest level of authority in the formal judiciary. The use of imprisonment is controversial, since village courts are seen at least by some participants and observers as part of a system of “restorative justice.” Nevertheless, village courts appear to forward “imprisonment orders” to the higher courts for endorsement with some frequency, and the district court in the National Capital District (NCD) approved 291 such orders in 2009. The chart below depicts the complex patterns of negotiation in and out of both systems as these approved orders, now warrants of arrest, got resolved. It also identifies two relationships that might be suitable for indicator development.
The frailty of information systems makes it impossible to calculate the ratio of orders of imprisonment to the number of cases heard. So we do not know with any confidence whether some village courts rely on the coercive powers of the formal system more often than others, nor whether village courts are becoming more or less dependent on this authority over time. We were also unable to track the specific outcomes for all 291 warrants of arrest issued by the NCD court. But we learned that the majority of cases ended shortly after the issuance of a warrant of arrest, and only 21 of the limited number of cases that continued to a hearing before the District Court Magistrate ended in a warrant of prison commitment, the court document that sends a person to prison. Furthermore, none of these 21 orders of commitment actually resulted in a prison admission. All cases were settled.
The enterprise of tracking these outcomes in the course of an indicator development project is creating a new and shared understanding of the relationship between the two systems of justice between the village courts secretariat, part of the Ministry of Justice, the NDC executive which administers the village courts, and the Magistrates Services, which administers the District Courts. It is also exposing one deeper function of the use of orders of imprisonment: To prompt continued negotiation between the parties at the community level. In most cases, after all, the warrant of arrest was followed not by arrest and incarceration but by further negotiation and ultimately settlement. And in all cases, an order of imprisonment generated additional incentive to resolve the dispute. Whether these are good or bad outcomes is open to continued debate, but that ambiguity does not prevent the development of an indicator that might be used by multiple agencies in Port Moresby to track change in the relationship between the two systems. Indeed, by placing the debate on a firmer and shared empirical understanding of operations, the enterprise of indicator development may be contributing to a more supple and transparent system of governance in the justice sector.
* We do not know exactly how often they make such requests since district courts record only those cases in which they approve the request, and years of efforts by Australian advisors to collect information from the more than 1400 village courts have not yielded a reliable basis of information.