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In Nigeria indicators have been developed that serve several purposes and are able to cut across multiple criminal justice agencies for Lagos State. First, working with the Attorney General of Lagos State and the CLEEN Foundation, we developed a tool for conducting prison exit samples in order to learn more about the composition of the large population of inmates in pretrial detention in the state’s federally-administered prisons. Next, we developed a device by which to track the amount of time it takes prosecutors to file legal advice, which is required to make a charge. We have recently resumed this work, helping the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) more reliably measure and reduce the amount of time spent on these initial phases of case processing, as well as measure other aspects of their work such as quality. Finally, we are helping the DPP with the creation of a witness support unit by gathering and exploiting new data on witnesses’ experiences of the justice system and by creating a tool to measure change following the creation of the unit.
In 2010 the Attorney General of Lagos State requested help tracking progress in the reduction of prison overcrowding. Working with a team from the Attorney General’s office and the CLEEN Foundation, an NGO that promotes public safety, security and justice, and analyzing administrative data already collected by the prisons, we discovered that that the majority of inmates spend short periods of time in detention.
The chart at left illustrates one-third of detainees go home within a week of their arrival, usually released on bail. Less than five percent of inmates stayed longer than a year, but they used nearly half of the available jail space. The indicator shows that while brief stays are the norm, reductions in long-term stays will have a large impact on the extent of crowding. These results and the method by which they were generated are described in our paper on prison exit samples. The findings of the research on pretrial detention prompted the creation of measurement tools to better understand additional factors contributing to overcrowding, including the small number of detainees remaining in prison over a year before trial commenced.
Concerned by the length of time it takes prosecutors to file legal advice, or the formal decision whether to pursue charges against suspects, the Attorney General decided to measure the number of days consumed by each stage of the justice process, and did so with our help. In 2010, it was discovered that counselors in the DPP took on average 165 days to file Legal Advice in cases of murder and armed robbery. Disturbed by the finding, the AG instituted a simple tracking device on each new case and recommended that counselors file legal advice within 30 days of its receipt from the police.
We are now working with the Attorney General to develop a tool to routinely measure and review the length of time attorneys take to prepare Legal Advice for all cases. Along with the monitoring of other variables such as the number of cases that come in and out of the DPP, as well as the size of the backlog, the review of this indicator will help guide policy decisions and learn about what adjustments would be more appropriate. Aware that actions affecting speed of legal advice might also affect other aspects of prosecutorial work, the Attorney General asked for our help in finding ways to measure the quality of legal advice.
Concerned that witnesses in criminal proceedings might have low levels of confidence in the justice system and that a significant portion of criminal cases is delayed because witnesses do not appear in court, the Attorney General asked us for help in the creation of a Witness Support Unit, in order to improve witnesses’ experiences of the justice system, restore confidence in it, and increase the rate at which witnesses show up in court. With assistance from researchers in the Program, a team from the Attorney General’s office designed and conducted interviews of witnesses and is now using the responses to learn about their concerns in order to better address them. We are currently in the process of supporting the design of a new Witness Support Unit, creating devices to measure the changes that staff expects its creation will cause.
Partners in the Nigeria work include representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Attorney General’s Office, the CLEEN Foundation, the Criminal Investigations Division of the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, and the State Commissioner of Prisons.
Nigerian police officer at reception desk of Divisional Headquarters, Ilasamaja, Lagos State
Photo: PCJ Staff