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Criminal Justice Information Management System (CRIMSYS)

 

Project description

CRIMSYS is an electronic software that facilitates the capture and management of all information available within the criminal justice system in Nigeria on a state-by-state; locality-by-locality basis. First developed under the joint partnership of the project partners in the Pre-Trial Detention and Reform of Legal Aid Service Delivery Project, CRIMSYS obtained the support of the government and the Ministry of Justice in 2005. An Information Technology (IT) company in Nigeria developed the software for the project while the procurement of hardware and office space was negotiated by the Open Society Justice Initiative and REPLACE. By October 2006, CRIMSYS had been installed in Imo and Sokoto states and training and data capture had commenced in Imo state. The computers which house the CRIMSYS software are located in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in the State and all data capture and information access is under the DPP’s supervision and management.  

CRIMSYS will:

  • Facilitate constant availability of and easy access to criminal justice and institutional information between agencies
  • Ensure contemporaneous access to the information database by multiple users
  • Ensure safe transfer of information and files between different agencies and counsel
  • Minimise dependence on the personal circumstances of persons in possession of case files; and
  • Eliminate prolonged pre-trial detention due to poor inter-agency co-ordination or loss of case files.

Problem Statement

The first pieces of information in a criminal case file are generated at the point of contact between a suspect and the police. Subsequent pieces of information are then generated by other criminal justice agencies. Access to this information is dependent on an efficient system of information compilation, records and transfer; i.e. an efficient information management and co-ordination system. However, the criminal justice process and systems in Nigeria are remarkable for their asymmetries. Though dependent on one another, the Police, DPPs, and the Judiciary do not share any common supervisory authority. For instance, the DPP is reliant on the police for evidence with which to prosecute a case, but is in no position to know anything or acquire necessary information from Police on the investigative process. The transfer of case files between the police and the courts or the police and the DPPs is also not subject to any particular form of supervision or tracking. Thus, the process of collating, recording and disseminating criminal justice information is carried out piecemeal and very often subject to the personal proclivities and circumstances of individual officers and department heads.

 

The absence of a tracking system for case file movements also leads to the loss of files without an identification of the officer or agency responsible for the loss, or without any notice of the loss. Without any mechanism for formal notification of such loss, criminal suspects and accused persons do not have any records of their arrest, or charges or detention by the appropriate authorities.

 

The end result of these multiple layers and widespread dependencies are a criminal justice sector characterized by miscommunication, loss of criminal case files and documents and sluggish case management.[1] A 2005 report of a Presidential Commission on Prison reforms confirms the prevalence of such ‘loss of record’ vacuums that exist in the Nigerian criminal justice system.[2] In 2007, the Justice Ejiwumi Commission on Reform of the Administration of Justice in Nigeria restated these problems of lack of co-ordination and information management as a key factor in the prolonged periods of pre-trial detention in Nigeria.[3]

 

Action


[1] Felicitas Aigbogun, ‘Justice Detained: The Impact of Pretrial Detention in Nigeria’ in Open Society News, Winter 2006 – 2007, page 12.

[2] Report of the Presidential Working Group on Prison Decongestion in Nigeria, February 2005.

[3] www.pcraj.org accessed on 24th May 2007.

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