Feel free to distribute or cite this material, but please credit Cornerstone Economic Research. For permission to reprint for commercial uses, such as textbooks, contact us: info@cornerstonesa.net.

Re-Costing the Child Justice Bill

Author: Conrad Barberton
Date: 2001-05-01

Download the full report.

Though this re-costing of the Child Justice Bill (1998) was originally written for AFReC (Pty) Ltd, Conrad Barberton, the founder of Cornerstone, is the author. It’s relevance and importance lies in that the Child Justice Bill was the first bill in South Africa to be fully costed during the drafting process prior to enactment and implementation.

The Child Justice Bill, a draft of which was released in December 1998 for comment, was costed in early 1999 and the report was published in Costing the Implementation of the Child Justice Bill & Developinga Strategy for Implementation, Monograph No.14 (November 1999) of the AFReC (UCT) Monograph Series. Following changes to the proposed Child Justice Bill (some as a result of the costing itself), such as the introduction of the preliminary enquiry and the wider use of diversion and alternative sentencing, as well as the proposal to implement a more comprehensive child justice monitoring system, it was requested that AFReC (Pty) Ltd. re-cost the bill, taking into account these and other changes. This report analyses three scenarios — baseline, full and rollout —in costing the goals of this bill.

This report, written in 2001, looks at the cost implications of changes made to the Child Justice Bill (the Bill). The aim is to evaluate the cost of implementing the Bill, and analysis takes the form of a cost-effectiveness comparison between the baseline and proposed scenarios.

To assist analysis, an Excel model was developed. The model is built on process and cost variables, identified from analysis of the child justice system, in order to establish the costs according to the baseline (current implementation), full (ideal implementation – what the Bill aims at) and rollout (partial implementation) scenarios.

The Child Justice System as Modelled by the CJ-model

Clear savings from the baseline scenario (R787 million per year), to the full scenario (R607 million per year) were found through this comparative costing. This equates to a saving of over 20 per cent. A number of other efficiency gains and savings are identified.

In order to realise these gains, however, the study found that a substantial reallocation of resources from the services existing at the time to assessment services, the preliminary inquiry process and the provision of diversion and alternative sentencing, would be required. However, it was noted that the reallocation of resources would have to be backed up by proper implementation of the services being funded, as it is through use of these services and processes that savings are rendered, not least by reducing the incidence of recidivism.

The figure below shows how using diversion and alternative sentencing to help children exit the child justice system as early as possible paints a more restorative picture. The higher numbers indicated against use of diversion prior to conviction in the full scenario represent the development of a more efficient system; as conviction rates come down, we see a rise in secure care. Where the residential sentences are significantly high in the base case, we see a sharp reduction in the full scenario.

Total Number of Children Diverted Each Year

The report recommends and costs a three-year training programme to build capacity and a deeper understanding of the ideal financial and social strategy for a child justice system based on care and rehabilitation. The plan outlines two courses: one for magistrates, prosecutors and legal representatives; and a second one for police officers, probation officers, youth care workers, prison officials and clerks of the court. This, according to the study, would carry a total cost of R5 million for the three-year period, and forms part of the initial costs for which reallocation would be required.

Further suggestions include an allowance within the vertical split of budget allocation for the increased need to implement the Child Justice Bill, and the implementation of a Conditional Grant to ensure that funds can be earmarked, allocated, and qualitatively monitored through implementation. The latter suggestion was found to be not ideal, as it tends to remove the autonomy of provinces and places a greater number of interdepartmental rifts in the implementation path. It also expands and complicates the politics and buy-in requirements for success.