The construct of crime (both social and legal), criminal law, law enforcement agencies, prosecutorial services, legal aid, judiciary, correctional institutions etc. form part of a superstructure, known as the Criminal Justice System (the CJS). Over the years, research has been conducted on all these sectors of the CJS, but often in isolation, leading to an incomplete understanding of the issues involved. For eg., over-criminalisation in legislations increases workload on law enforcement agencies, judicial apparatus and correctional institutions. An objective approach at the time of law making can prevent exhausting the whole system.
In keeping with this understanding, Vidhi has written a report ‘From Addict to Convict’, studying the impact of deterrent punishment on drug use in Punjab. The Report finds that poor legal drafting and unnecessary criminalisation has led to victimising addicts, instead of solving a pressing social issue. This report is a first step towards an evidence-based approach to understand the effectiveness and feasibility of criminal laws.
Vidhi’s research continues to aim to break the silos and work towards reforms in a concerted and sustained manner. It will be doing so through – i) socio-economic impact assessment of laws by field-based research; ii) evidence based research, a precursor to any criminal justice reform that feeds into law making processes; iii) exploring alternatives to criminalisation and incarceration; and iv) establishing relationships with government organs to facilitate reform.