Research Reports

Arrested in Africa: An exploration of the issues
Author: Jean
Published: Nov 01, 2015

Recent research and advocacy efforts have drawn attention to the excessive use of and prolonged pre-trial detention in Africa. At any given moment there are roughly 1 million people in Africa’s prisons. Far more move through prisons each year. Their stay in prison, regardless of duration, starts with being arrested. Substantially more people are arrested than those who end up in prison for pre-trial detention. Pre-trial detention figures are thus a poor indicator of contact with the criminal justice system. The purpose of arrest and subsequent detention of a suspect is essentially to ensure the attendance of the person in court or for another just cause. The police’s powers of arrest are, in theory, curtailed to the extent that the arresting officer must be able to provide reasons for the arrest and continued police detention. Police officials have considerable discretion in executing arrests, especially when arresting without a warrant. This exploratory report focuses on arresting without a warrant and starts off with setting out the legal requirements in this regard by way of a case study. In order to understand current arrest practices, the report provides a brief description of the history of policing in Africa and concludes that much of what was established by the colonial powers has remained intact, emphasising high arrest rates, a social disciplinarian mode of policing, supported by myriad petty offences that justify arrest without a warrant. This combination enables widespread corruption and results in negative perceptions of the police. The report further argues that given the wide discretionary powers of the police to arrest without a warrant, it follows that not all people are at an equal risk of arrest, but rather that it is the poor, powerless and out-groups that are at a higher risk of arrest based on non-judicial factors. The report concludes with a number of recommendations calling for further research, decriminalisation of certain offences and restructuring of the police in African countries.

Journal Article: Unconscionable and irrational: SAPS human resource allocation
Author: Jean
Published: Sep 01, 2015

The Khayelitsha Commission revealed that areas that are predominantly populated by people who are poor and black are systematically allocated only a small fraction of the average per capita allocation of police personnel in the Western Cape. These areas also suffer among the highest rates of murder and serious violent crime in the province. The allocation of human resources to policing impinges on various constitutional rights. Given the inequity and irrationality apparent in the allocation of police personnel, the Khayelitsha Commission recommended that this method be urgently revised. This article reviews the evidence heard on the allocations and the method currently used to allocate police personnel, suggests an alternative method, and calls on the government to heed the recommendation of the Khayelitsha Commission that the state urgently revise its method of allocation of policing resources.

Women in Pre-trial Detention in Africa
Author: Marilize Ackermann
Published: Nov 07, 2014

This is a publication of of the project 'Promoting Pre-trial Detention in Africa' (PPJA). The objective of this review is to explore existing literature in respect of the reasons for female remand detention in Africa and the challenges women experience in prison. The biggest challenge to compiling this review was the lack of centralised and comprehensive statistics. The subject is under-researched and statistics referred to represent snapshot data obtained either from the database of the International Centre for Prison Studies or from various ad hoc reports. Literature pertaining to South Africa was available, but authoritative studies from less developed countries do not exist, or were last undertaken as long ago as the 1980s. The failure of states to allocate resources to female detainees and the absence of consistent and clear policies and legislation around the issues they commonly encounter suggest a lack of awareness or a lack of political will to improve the situation.

Understanding impunity in the South African law enforcement agencies
Author: Jean
Published: Aug 22, 2013

The probability that law enforcement officials will be held accountable for gross rights violations is very low. The reasons for this are discussed in this report. The report argues that there is no single reason for the current situation but rather that a myriad of factors, structural and functional, contribute to a greater or a lesser degree to the current situation. The authors contend that it would be inaccurate and superficial depiction to lay the blame at the door of only one institution, as this would ignore the effect of other factors. Moreover, the problem of rights violations and concomitant impunity is widespread and pervasive, and for this reason it is increasingly unconvincing for government to explain such cases as being the work of "a few rotten apples".