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Impact Evaluation Report

By: Justin Sandefur, Bilal Siddiqi, Alaina Varvaloucas

Timap for Justice and the Open Society Justice Initiative launched a Criminal Justice Pilot (CJP) paralegal program in September 2009 in three rural districts of Sierra Leone. The program is intended to provide systematic access to justice to those detained at police stations and prisons, and employed 6 paralegals and 1 lawyer (now 10 paralegals). Paralegals solicit criminal cases through several strategies, including regular monitoring of police stations and prisons, outreach to communities, and taking up cases that are brought into their offices. The pilot is part of a larger justice-sector reform program underway across Sierra Leone.

From July 2009 to October 2010, the Centre for the Study of African Economies, Oxford University (CSAE) conducted a quasi-experimental evaluation of the impact of the program. The evaluation relies on a before and after, difference-in-difference design, which tracks progress on a variety of indicators at both Timap ‘treatment’ sites (i.e., police stations and prisons) as well as ‘control’ sites in neighboring districts of Sierra Leone where Timap does not yet operate. The evaluation has both a qualitative and quantitative component. The evaluation was funded through research grants from the Soros Foundation and the International Growth Centre.

This research project is an impact evaluation. Thus its primary goal is to rigorously quantify the causal impact of Timap’s Criminal Justice Pilot on reduced rates of pre-trial detention, increased conviction rates, reduced arrest rates, abuse, and other problems in the formal criminal justice system. In short, its aim is to identify “what works” — in particular, which aspects of Timap’s work are most effective and thus deserving of priority. Little rigorous quantitative evidence exists on the design of effective post-conflict access-to-justice and legal empowerment programs, and it is hoped that the evaluation will provide unique insights for policy, particularly as paralegal work goes national.