Criminal procedure punishes before conviction

How does pretrial detention affect the socio-economic rights of the accused and those around him or her? In this study, Prof Lukas Muntingh and Ms Jean Redpath of the Dullah Omar Institute’s Civil Society Prison Reform Initiative analyse and quantify the socio-economic impact of pretrial detention in Kenya, Mozambique and Zambia.

Their conclusion is that the criminal procedure system punishes before conviction, regardless of the guilt or innocence of the accused. The impact of pretrial detention on the accused is aggravated by the additional economic and social strain on the family of the accused. This includes loss of household income, savings and assets but also the costs of detention itself, including travel costs and the provision of food and essential items to pretrial detainees. Ironically, it is the poor who subsidise imprisonment by providing essential items to detainees, they conclude.

Muntingh and Redpath urge governments to recognise the socio-economic impact of pretrial detention and take appropriate measures, such as the decriminalization of petty offences, alternative methods to secure court attendance and speedy trials.  

The study was conducted with the support of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa.