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Measuring Pre-trial Detention in Africa. April 25-26, 2013, Bogotá, Colombia Jean Redpath Promoting Pre-trial Justice in Africa Civil Society Prison Reform Initiative (CSPRI) Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape.

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measuring pre trial detention in africa

Measuring Pre-trial Detention in Africa

April 25-26, 2013, Bogotá, Colombia

Jean Redpath

Promoting Pre-trial Justice in Africa

Civil Society Prison Reform Initiative (CSPRI)

Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape

pre trial imprisonment rates
Pre-trial imprisonment rates
  • Pre-trial imprisonment rates are used to show the rate of incarceration of the total population and thus gives a measure of the propensity of the state to incarcerate pre-trial.
  • These can be misleading particularly in Africa where many people are held pre-trial in non-prison places of detention for extended time periods .
  • This is a “snapshot” measure which uses the number in pre-trial detention as at a particular date.
  • Does not indicate duration of detention.
  • Most useful for comparing countries.
  • NOTE: it may be preferable to use adult populations rather than total populations
duration of pre trial detention
Duration of pre-trial detention
  • Measuring the average (mean) or median length of pre-trial detention is fraught with difficulty in Africa, mostly due to problems with consistent recording of information on dates of releases.
  • In South Africa the Department of Correctional Services publishes the proportion of people held in prison for various time periods 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-12 months, etc. as at a particular date, usually 31 March of the year under consideration.
  • None of the measures above capture the kind of pre-trial detention which is increasingly prevalent in Africa, which is a form of detention without trial
  • I.e. Arbitrary or political arrests leading to relatively “short” periods of pre-trial detention often followed by release without trial ever occurring.
    • In Zimbabwe “human rights defenders” and the political opposition are harassed and their work disrupted by targeted periods of incarceration
    • In South Africa changes to bail law mean that for many, bail applications will only be heard more than two weeks after arrest, meaning most spend at least 2 weeks pre-trial. Half of all cases end in withdrawal.
    • In many African countries political control is exerted through the criminal justice system
pre trial detention exposure as an appropriate pre trial detention indicator for africa
Pre-trial detention “Exposure” as an appropriate pre-trial detention indicator for Africa
  • This can be used as n alternative measure where:
    • The total number of pre-trial detainees is known at defined periods e.g. at the end of each quarter.
    • The total admissions to pre-trial detention during those defined periods e.g. per quarter are known.
    • The total population of the country is known.
quarterly exposure number
Quarterly exposure number
  • The “Quarterly exposure number” is simply:
    • The total in pre-trial custody at the beginning of the quarter plus pre-trial admissions during the quarter
    • E.g. in Malawi typical numbers might be for Quarter 1:
      • 29000 in pre-trial detention as at 1 January
      • 10 000 admitted 1 January to 31 March
    • Quarterly exposure = (29 000 in pre-trial + 10 000 admissions)
    • = 39 000 exposed to pre-trial detention

Total in custody at beginning of quarter

New admissions during quarter

quarterly exposure rate
Quarterly exposure rate
  • Rate = Quarterly exposure number/population
  • E.g. in Malawi total population is 14 million
  • Exposure number is 39 000
  • Quarterly exposure rate 278 per 100 000 total population exposed to pre-trial detention
    • If one uses adult population (6 million)
    • Quarterly exposure rate = 650 per 100 000 adult population
    • OR 6,5 per 1 000 adults
    • If one uses adult male population (3 million)
    • Just over 1 in every 100 adult males exposed to pre-trial detention per quarter
change in exposure number
Change in exposure number
  • Change = Quarter 2 - Quarter 1
    • Quarter 2 – Quarter 1
    • = (Q2Number_ptd _beg + Q2admissions) –

(Q1Number in ptd_beg + Q1admissions)

    • = ([(Q1Number_ptd + Q1admissions - Q1releases) + Q2 admissions] - [Q1Number_ptd + Q1admissions] )
    • = Q2 admissions - Q1 releases
    • An increase in exposure number can mean either an increase in the number of people held for more than three months OR more people being admitted to pre-trial detention