Alexander Mayer-Rieckh


The Community-Based Approach to Criminal-Justice Assessments - the full guide in pdf

This operational guidance note (OGN) provides advice on how to conduct a community-based assessment (CBA) of the criminal justice system under real-world constraints. An assessment is a process of gathering and analysing information on needs to inform decision-making on programming. The criminal justice system refers to the practices and institutions directed at preventing crime, sanctioning those who commit crimes, making efforts to rehabilitate them, and providing reparations to the victims.

In the criminal justice field, assessments often start with the defects of criminal justice institutions such as the police, the courts or the prisons. Such an actor-focused assessment looks for the reasons why the institutions are ineffective or inefficient in what they do. But it does not ask whether these institutions actually do what they should do. Programming developed on the basis of an actor-focused assessment will address certain institutional defects but may miss out on the problems and needs of communities. Programming on this basis helps institutions to do things right but not necessarily to do the right things.

A CBA, on the other hand, starts with identifying the criminal justice needs of communities, then asks what institutions should but do not do to respond to these needs, and finally looks for the reasons that account for why these institutions do not deliver services to meet the needs. Such an approach grounds programme decisions in the needs of communities, links needs with institutions, and ensures a service orientation for criminal justice activities. Programming on this basis helps institutions to do the right things right.

Assessments are usually more complex than anticipated, especially in fragile and post-conflict contexts. Assessments are politically sensitive, time consuming and resource intensive (for general guidance on how to plan and conduct assessments see the ISSAT OGN series on security and justice assessments). Moreover, the assessment team often has to operate under serious time and resource constraints. This CBA tool aims to provide easy methods on how to conduct quality assessments under such real-world constraints. One technique used in this tool is mapping, which is a process of gathering just thebasic facts on the objects of interest, for instance on all criminal justice actors. Mapping is broad and complete but not deep and not detailed. A good mapping process produces a complete inventory and provides a bird’s-eye overview of all objects of interest.

The CBA consists of five stages: mapping needs, mapping actors, linking needs with actors, identifying the institutional causes that account for why the needs are not met, and analysing the CBA findings. This OGN describes step by step the five CBA stages and provides tools and templates to facilitate the CBA process.


Capacity, Integrity and Sustainability Framework

CIS Framework

The Capacity, Integrity and Sustainability (CIS) Framework is a simple tool to help move beyond a focus on personnel skills and equipment, and towards three crucial dimensions of institutional survival (see Figure 1 below). Originally designed to look at the capacity and integrity of an institution to be effective and accountable at the individual and organisation level, the CIF has since evolved to also look at external oversight aspects, as well as at the sustainability or continuity of not only individual posts and functions (recruitment and retention), but also organisational staffing structures and resourcing.  

In analysing an institution, the CIF distinguishes between three levels of an institution:

  1. Individual: an individual’s background, education, experience and aptitude that helps him/ her accomplish his/ her tasks
  2. Organisational: an organisation’s mandate, resources, structures, policies and procedures
  3. External: its interdependence with other institutions

The three quality dimensions of an institution are:

  1. Capacity : existing resources, structures and procedures
  2. Integrity : respect for basic norms and values when using its capacity
  3. Sustainability : conditions for building a stable and sustainable service

For the full tool, download the pdf below, or use the online version in the Methodology section to see how the tool is used to Identify Causes in a Community Based Needs Assessment of the Criminal Justice Chain.

An 2011 blog by Alexander Meyer-Reickh developing the CIS Framework provides insight into its application.


Policy and Research Papers

Dealing with the Past in Security Sector Reform

Security sector reform (SSR) and transitional justice processes often occur alongside each other in societies emerging from conflict or authoritarian rule, involve many of the same actors, are supported by some of the same partner countries and impact on each other. Yet the relationship between SSR and transitional justice, or “dealing with the past” (DwP) as it is also called, remains underexplored and is often marked by ignorance and resistance. While SSR and transitional justice processes can get into each other’s way, this paper argues that SSR and DwP are intrinsically linked and can complement each other. SSR can make for better transitional justice and vice versa. Transitional justice needs SSR to prevent a recurrence of abuses, an essential element of justice. SSR can learn from transitional justice not only that it is better to deal with rather than ignore an abusive past but also how to address an abusive legacy in the security sector. The validity of these assumptions is tested in two case studies: the police reform process in Bosnia and Herzegovina after 1995 and the SSR process in Nepal after 2006.


Other Documents

Using the Capacity Integrity Framework (CIF)

This document explains how to apply the Capacity Integrity Framework to assess the capacity and integrity of a security institution. It lists the general question areas to be explored in each of the four areas of the matrix. 

Other Document