The second ACSA biennial conference of correctional institutions was convened in Kampala in October 2012 with technical support from the Institute in planning, organizing and conducting the conference. The Institute presented a paper on trends and phases of corrections in Africa. Heads of 40 correctional institutions expressed interest in community-based correctional sanctions and requested the Institute to offer technical assistance in realizing that ideal. Preliminary activities have been carried out in South Sudan to establish a correctional system that incorporates reforms in operational policies, programmes and legislation. Consistent with regional and international correctional standards, the main goal is to highlight the significance within routine operations of effective social rehabilitation and subsequent reintegration of inmates into society, premised on the triangular connection between inmates, communities and the victims of crime.
Interactions with the offices of African States in Kampala and at regional conferences have focused on practical measures to curb the ever-increasing costs of maintaining correctional facilities, without compromising minimum standards for the human rights of inmates and while transforming them into useful members of society. The general trend has been an increase in the number of inmates, while the budgets of correctional institutions have not matched the level of admissions. In addition, most correctional institutions have faced difficulties in developing their infrastructure. As a result, new policies that promote the relationship between correctional facilities and communities, together with alternative sentencing options that will reduce overpopulation in correctional institutions, must be considered. Based on its mandate, the Institute is exploring sources of relevant expertise and technical support from sister agencies to facilitate the promotion of non-custodial sentences in Africa.
The Institute has facilitated the development of sentencing guidelines in the context of strengthening criminal justice in Uganda, the success of which may form the basis of good practice for dissemination to other jurisdictions. The guidelines have been promulgated and will be implemented by legal and judicial officers in Uganda so as to better ensure fairness and human rights in sentencing. The guidelines provide for a range of sentences for similar offences, using the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners as the basis for incarceration and preference for community service sentences for specific offences.
One of the most important elements of effective criminal justice delivery is the independence of the criminal justice system. Through technical support from donor communities and partner agencies, there is growing adherence to this requirement for impartial and professional judicial systems. This will further strengthen public confidence that justice can be delivered independently, which will help to maintain order in society. Importantly, there is a need to develop technical skills for contemporary justice delivery, improve the terms of service for judicial officers and increase the sensitization of local communities about the rights of people in custody.
Good coordination among the police, civil society, the legislative branch, the prosecution, corrections officers and local communities is essential in order to entrench the process of adjudication within legal procedures that are easily understood and familiar to people in the communities. Criminal justice reforms leading to successful judicial systems in other regions should be replicated so as to promote accountability and fairness, with full recognition of the fundamental rights of all parties. To this effect, as mandated by the General Assembly in its resolution 67/191, the Institute is collaborating with UNODC and the African Union, together with other agencies to realize this ideal.
The Institute, in conjunction with the Centre for Capital Punishment Studies of the University of Westminster, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is continuing the training of legal practitioners and communities in Uganda to enhance human-rights-based interventions to minimize capital punishment sentencing. This training is based on the sentencing guidelines in Uganda, which maintain capital punishment but relegate it to the last applicable option. Sessions were held in November 2012 for law students and, subsequently, for practising lawyers. Leading consultants from London with broad experience in addressing serious crime helped to conduct the training, citing local and international legal frameworks and case studies in the process. Following this training, a number of practising lawyers have expressed interest in having direct collaboration with the Institute in advancing the dissemination of knowledge on emerging trends in the area of crime. The consultants from London promised to promote the Institute among prospective donors and hoped that they would be able to make a sizeable contribution to maintain the training sessions in the future.