When a justice system doesn’t work, you’re more likely to become a victim of crime and less likely to receive help when you are a victim.
In Bolivia, tens of thousands of sexual assaults against children occur every year. Yet between 2000 to 2007, the Bolivian criminal justice system convicted fewer than three child sexual assault perpetrators per year.
In India, where millions of poor people are illegally held in forced labor, we can identify fewer than five perpetrators who have done any substantial prison time for this crime between 1998 and 2013.
When the laws aren’t enforced, violent people can abuse, exploit and enslave others without consequence. Violence becomes commonplace
When governments have limited law enforcement resources at their disposal, they use them to protect the things they value most – often wealthy areas, landmarks, or business centers. As a result, the poor are exposed the most to crime.
On top of this, police departments often lack the most basic office supplies – paper, folders, functional phones, copiers and computers – let alone forensics evidence kits, DNA testing equipment, and cameras necessary to do their job.
Restraining criminals and gathering evidence to hold them accountable is difficult. In the developed world, there are specific and rigorous police procedures to help justice systems build fair, strong cases against criminals.
In the developing world, police officers are given little training. While officers may receive military-like drill training, there is little advanced instruction in criminal investigation or evidence collection.
When a justice system is broken, police have little incentive to exert great effort. It’s often easiest for them to turn a blind eye, or dismiss victims who wish to file a complaint.
Some officers actually switch sides - working against the people instead of for them. They may expect payment before they’ll do their jobs, or even extort money from those they’re supposed to protect. When there is no accountability for corrupt officials in the system, the good officers who want to uphold the law and serve the community can become marginalized.
In many systems, one of the most crippling problems is a lack of hope. Because systems have been broken for so long, injustice becomes the norm, and people do not believe that change can happen. Government leadership may have little will to fix what is broken in the justice system. Poor people, along with those who advocate for them, look for work-arounds to the system, rather than solutions to the problems in the system.
We first identify children and adults who are victims of violence, like rape, forced labor, or sex trafficking. We then support local law enforcement in rescue operations and ensure that victims are treated with dignity during the operation.
We create individual treatment plans to help meet survivors’ specific needs. We partner with local aftercare homes in cases where long-term shelter is required, ensure the survivor's medical needs are addressed, provide trauma counseling, and support access to school and/or vocational training.
We ensure that criminals cannot continue to harm their victims by supporting police in locating, arresting and charging them with crimes. We provide training and hands-on mentoring for police, judges, prosecutors and other professionals to equip the justice system to gather the proper evidence for use in court.
We help the survivor prepare to share the truth in court, and ensure that public prosecutors have the resources they need for a fair trial that brings the perpetrator to justice. In justice systems where cases tend to move very slowly through the system, we work to avoid any delays in the case and keep it moving forward as quickly as possible even in the face of significant obstacles.
Build relationships within the system
Uncover where the system is broken
Prove the system can work
In a large district outside Chennai, most government officials or police officers had never received any targeted training on forced labor slavery, which was rampant in the area. As a result, forced labor was rarely recognized as a crime.
But IJM began reporting specific cases of forced labor slavery to government officials in the district. After partnering with the government on dozens of individual operations and building mutual relationships of trust, leadership within the district invited IJM to provide intensive training to all District Administrative Officials - the government officials responsible for upholding anti-slavery laws - on how to proactively combat forced labor before stepping into their new role. After the training, government officials began initiating their own cases against slaveholders, reducing the need for IJM’s involvement.
Through our initial partnership with authorities in Cebu, IJM discovered specific instances where the system was failing to stop sex traffickers from exploiting and abusing minors.
Despite strong laws on the books, police and prosecutors seemed unable to successfully arrest, charge and convict perpetrators of the crime. But as IJM partnered with local authorities on case after case, the specific breakdowns that caused cases to fail became clear.
Police hadn’t received specialized instruction on how to conduct an effective anti-trafficking operation or gather evidence of trafficking crimes, so even if they attempted to enforce the law, they lacked the evidence they needed to convict offenders.
After rescue operations, child victims, accused traffickers and child abusers were all held in the same room while the investigation was conducted, giving criminals the opportunity to harass and coerce their victims before they talked to police – leaving many too afraid to testify against their abusers.
Even if traffickers were charged, prosecutors often misunderstood the Philippines’ new anti-trafficking law, and would fail to apply key provisions. As a result, traffickers were often mischarged or released on bail, where they could flee or even simply pick back up and reopen their businesses.
When IJM began working in the Philippines, cases against traffickers often took more than five years – and could take twice that long. Because convictions were so slow to come, it seemed like traffickers would never be held accountable. Many people did not believe that the justice system could actually stop these criminals.
But the IJM teams in the Philippines have partnered with local prosecutors and courts to prove that the system can actually work, securing the conviction of scores of traffickers and concluding recent cases in as little as seven or eight months.
The teams work to ensure that word spreads about these “proof points,” sharing about the victories with key stakeholders and making sure that media outlets are aware of the cases’ outcomes.
In Mukono County, Uganda, officers often couldn't help widows threatened by violent property-grabbers because they couldn't reach the victims' rural homes, so IJM provided basic equipment to the stations, including a motorcycle to reach crime scenes.
In Cambodia, IJM has trained hundreds of officers on all aspects of implementing Cambodia's anti-trafficking laws justly - from survivor-centered interviewing, to evidence-gathering, to working with local community members to address trafficking.
In Guatemala, IJM has provided forensic training to medical examiners, equipping them with the skills they need to successfully and humanely document proof of rape with child survivors.
In Rwanda, IJM has trained local law enforcement authorities on investigations, evidence collection, forensic interview techniques and the importance of including medical evidence in cases of sexual violence against children.
The solution to corrupt police is not no police - it is good police. In Cebu, the Philippines, when it was clear that corruption among some street-level police was preventing the enforcement of anti-trafficking laws, IJM worked with the government to establish and equip a specialized anti-trafficking police force that was vetted, highly-trained, and given authority to conduct targeted anti-trafficking enforcement. This police force has been highly effective in combating trafficking and is now being replicated throughout the country.
In Kolkata, India, IJM partnered with local authorities to secure the conviction of a violent sex trafficker named Nakul Bera - a man who was so powerful before his arrest that he had been viewed as "invincible" in the community.
In Chennai, India, IJM worked with justice system partners to secure the conviction of a rice mill owner who had repeatedly stocked his factory with slaves - the conviction was one of the first on slavery charges in the region since the 19th century, and one of the most significant sentences on record for forced labor offenses in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
In the Philippines, where trials against traffickers often take three to four years, IJM recently partnered with the justice system to secure the conviction of two traffickers within just seven months - proving that speedy justice is possible within the country.