n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Pre-trial detention in Sub-Saharan Africa : socio-economic impact and consequences

Special Edition 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Sub-Saharan Africa faces acute developmental needs. A significant number of individuals and households in the region eke out a precarious existence, where even slight financial setbacks can push families into abject poverty. A large proportion of the Sub-Saharan Africa's prisoners are pre-trial detainees - some 40 percent on average. Largely unexplored is the impact the widespread use of pre-trial detention has on the region's socio-economic development. The results of country-based surveys in three West African countries and ethnographic case studies of individual detainees and their families in Malawi, reveal substantial socio-economic impacts of pre-trial detention at individual and household levels. For individual detainees, pre-trial detention means lost income and reduced long-term employment opportunities as a result of illness or physical injuries acquired whilst in detention. For their families and households, it means economic hardship and reduced educational outcomes. When an income-earner is detained, family members must adjust not only to the loss of that income but also to costs of supporting that family member in detention, including travelling to visit the detainee, as well as supplying food and personal items for the detainee. Often detainees' children are taken out of school to provide domestic and financial support for other family members.

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