New Case Management System for Criminal Justice Delivery in Nigeria

Writer:Maduka Christian Chibuzo

A “case” is any project, transaction, service or response that is “opened” and “closed” over a period of time to achieve resolution of a problem, claim, request, proposal, development or other complex activity. It is likely to case_mgmtinvolve multiple persons inside and outside of the organization, with varying relationships to each other, as well as multiple documents and messages.

Businesses and agencies in long-term relationships with their customers, citizens or subscribers will be judged by the accuracy of the records they hold, the consistency of the communications that take place, and the speed, efficiency and fairness with which each case, claim or contract is processed.

Delivery of customer service against these priorities has never been more challenging. Customers are more mobile in their addresses, jobs and family relationships. Communications channels seem to multiply overnight, with customers switching between them at will. Corporate messaging demands multi-channel distribution with increasing amounts of personalization. Mergers and acquisitions create multiple silos of customer-related data to be seamlessly joined. And products, business rules and government regulations change with alarming frequency. Against this backdrop, the demands on the IT systems to support smooth, efficient and integrated delivery are considerable, particularly where case-orientated transactions are involved.

Customer or client interfaces may be dealt with in a help-desk system. Multiple relationships may be required, as any one case, contract or claim may involve more than one customer, knowledge worker or other contributor. These may be family members, professional practitioners, assessors, repair service providers, enforcement officers, etc. Multiple communications channels between these participants may include web forms, letters, emails, faxes and outgoing print – and these days could extend to SMS messages, instant messages, social forums and even Tweets.

The above scenarios paint  pictures of business processes involving multiple actions and interactions to get a case resolved, but same has been borrowed and transferred to case management in the criminal justice sector that involves the accused person, the police, the courts and the judiciary, the prosecuting  lawyers and Ministry of Justice, the prisons and other stakeholders. In the case of criminal justice, the interest of case, management is essentially on how the case of an accused person is managed from the entry point of police arrest until the case is prosecuted and determined in the courts.  An accused person once arrested by the police has a case file opened for him or her. The case file has various communications, data and information entered into it as the case progresses. How these multiple information, data and communications are used or managed towards resolving the case is the sole interest of case management system in criminal justice. The case management system in criminal justice sector is the movement of the case file of the accused person and treatment of same from police station through Ministry of justice to the Courts and beyond the courts if there is need to the prisons.

In the ordinary business life, the case file itself will involve a collection of customer communications, forms, process documents, reports and supporting documentation, and will need to be managed for compliance and audit. This may best be handled by in different ways, but the individual documents will need to be grouped together as part of the case file, and made accessible in a suitably controlled way to all who are involved in the case, including those at the customer interface. Finally, a workflow or business process needs to take place to move the case to its outcome. In criminal justice system, the case file of an accused person also involve a collection of accused person’s communications, information, forms, process documents, reports and supporting documents that need to be managed for smooth flow of the process of easy determination of the case. The different documents and information of the accused person will need to be grouped together as part of the case file. This case file must be made available to the parties that are involved in the case need in a suitably controlled way including other interest groups. This is the case management system in the criminal justice sector.

case managementWithin different systems, different styles of management of case can exist. In some, alerts-style functionality will frequently exist against a given accused person or customer log, whereas in some traditional systems, workflow may involve moving a given document through each process stage – probably in a serial manner. All of the above is appropriate to a case management scenario where the focus is “the case,” not a customer or a single document. In every case, the process outcome of every case management system is the successful resolution of the case. The participants may need to respond against given deadlines, and those involved in managing the case need to see progress reporting and action monitoring against the case. In modern case management system involving criminal justice, the monitoring and progress reporting is done against the case by what is termed performance data. This is either done on monthly or weekly basis or as events demands.

The biggest motivations to improve case management capabilities are better process productivity and more effective internal collaboration, followed by higher quality client or customer service and lower compliance risks – the latter being particularly the case in financial services. In the new dynamic world of business efficiency, case management has become even more desirable for effective operation of any system that demands multiple communications and interactivity with a diverse departments, cases, and people.

To help speed up the criminal justice system and inject efficiency and effectiveness into the hitherto growing and complex criminal justice sector in Nigeria, the Justice for All J4A Programme of the Department of International Development DFID of the United Kingdom Government, has introduced modern case management system into the Nigerian criminal justice system albeit on a pilot level in Enugu State of Nigeria. The essence is to register all the on-going criminal and civil cases into the system that can efficiently and effectively manage the storage and retrieval of information, data and communications as they relate to speedy delivery of criminal justice.

Since it is a known fact that the criminal justice system in Nigeria has a cross sectoral implication involving Nigerian Police, Judiciary, Ministry of Justice, the Nigerian Prisons Service and even the Nigerian Bar Association, Legal Aid Council of Nigeria and other stakeholders in the criminal justice sector, the introduction of modern case management system into the sector by the Justice for All Programme of DFID is a welcome development. Under the pilot scheme of the project tagged: ‘Speeding up criminal justice system in Enugu State of Nigeria’, a cross sectoral intervention aimed at removing all snags that cause delay in criminal justice delivery in Nigeria technology driven case management system became necessary and desirable.

The new and improved case management system in the criminal justice system as introduced by Justice for All J4A, is a multi-user, interactive database management system designed to meet the needs of diverse purpose for all organizations whose missions are linked directly with provision of justice to the accused persons.  The new system helps to streamline, automate, and accelerate decision-making across various interrelated institutions, offices and individuals in this criminal justice delivery process especially as it concerns getting the case of accused person resolved faster and qualitatively with accurate information needed to determine and deliver justice to the accused persons seeking to obtain justice.

The new system tagged Central Case Management System (CCMS) is open source software that was developed for the paralegal sector. It is designed to allow multiple organizations and paralegal offices to access, input and modify a central database of case records. In the long run, the CCMS can be adapted as a web-based thin-client application that eliminates the need to install and maintain software at each office.

Courtesy of DFID’s Justice for All programmes, the new Case Management System has been installed for the Enugu State Judiciary, the Enugu State Ministry of Justice, Enugu State Command of Nigerian Police and the Nigerian Prisons Service, Enugu State. The system is an improvement of analogue case management and records methodology that houses modern information technology equipments and other facilities that make criminal case management and records keeping seamless and smooth procedures.

The installations and commissioning of the new Case Management System for the criminal justice institutions in Enugu State is in fulfillment of the gaps and needs discovered under six areas of operations of the criminal justice institutions in the State. These identified intervention areas include: Speeding-up effective criminal investigations, Speeding-up the prosecution process and Speeding-up court trial process, Others are: Enhancing transportation of remand prisoners to court, Improving the attendance rate of witnesses in criminal cases and Enhancing legal representation for remand prisoners.

The Case Management System will enable the collation and management of all information related to on-going cases in the courts, with the police office, ministry of justice and or the prisons relatively easy and accessible through the click of a button. The Case Management System as presently installed for Nigerian Prisons Service, Nigerian Police Force, Ministry of Justice and Enugu State Judiciary will in the long run make cross sectoral harmonization of data efficient, effective and authentic.

The benefits of new Case Management System include rapid access and tracking of data of cases under litigation and even those that have been closed. The process of operation of the system begins from data entry on Case Registration and Amendment Form to Case Update Form and finally to Case Management Unit CMU which is the mega data bank of the system.

The essence of this case tracking system is to facilitate the accurate capture of key case based court transactions on daily basis and ultimately to generate management information through performance reports. Reports can be produced monthly, quarterly, and annually or on demand and this also enables for comparison of data with previous period if need be. For example, the case management system of the Judiciary can enable the judiciary produce various types of reports from the system depending on the needs. However the reports are to be produced initially for each individual courts and another for all the courts in the system combined.

It enables the Judiciary to track and monitor the developments on the pending cases, court performance and most importantly enables the Judiciary to monitor the overdue cases and track their details. The case management system for the Judiciary also enables it to monitor the progress of cases from their entry points until the final judgment is given on the cases. It also assists the Judiciary to produce monthly performance Data PD and Nigerian Judiciary Commission NJC Report etc. Enugu State is the first to benefit from this kind of project in Nigeria.

The DFID-funded Nigeria Justice for All Programme (J4A), in partnership with Prisoners Rehabilitation & Welfare Action PRAWA, began working with the government and non-government actors of Enugu State to “Speed up Criminal Justice in Enugu State” since 2011. The aim of the intervention is to identify root causes of delays in the criminal justice system and support the development and implementation of cross-sector solutions, involving state actors (police, ministry of justice, prisons, judiciary, legislature, etc.) and non-state actors (civil society organisations; traditional rulers, etc.).

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