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SHAW Reducing the Excessive Use of Pretrial Detention

SHAW Reducing the Excessive Use of Pretrial Detention

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Published by Francisco Estrada

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Published by: Francisco Estrada on Dec 07, 2010
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11/09/2011

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In 1997, Minister of Justice Dullah
Omar decided to launch a pragmatic
project to empower judicial officers
to make more informed decisions in
relation to the administration of bail.18
In addition to the problem of danger-
ous offenders being released by the
courts, there were large numbers of
indigent persons accused of nonvio-
lent offenses—overwhelmingly black
people from poor communities—
remanded into custody because they
could not pay bail. Faced with criticism
of these practices from human rights
organizations, budgetary pressures
from the increase in the prison popu-
lation, and perhaps doubts about the
fairness of restrictive bail legislation,
Minister Omar supported the intro-
duction of Pretrial Services (PTS).

The PTS project was one of a range
of demonstration projects designed,
implemented, and tested by the BJA
over a seven-year period in South
Africa. The BJA was itself the product
of an agreement between the South
African Department of Justice and the
Vera Institute of Justice to support
the capacity for innovation in justice
administration in South Africa. The
PTS project was conceived in part as a
result of the success of the Manhattan
Bail Project, a pretrial services project
initiated by the Vera Institute of
Justice in New York City in 1961 to
reduce the amount of jail crowding
that resulted from discriminatory
and arbitrary assignment of high
bail amounts to defendants who could
not pay bail and thus spent long
periods of time in jail awaiting trial
on minor charges.19

The success of

the Manhattan Bail Project and its
replication in many cities throughout
the United States during a period of
rising crime and criminal justice
transformation prompted by the grow-
ing civil rights movement, made a per-
suasive case to senior decision makers
in the South African justice depart-
ment to experiment with a similar
undertaking.

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