Tunisian Delegates Visit School of Law

Duquesne School of Law fosters reform in other parts of the world

A group of Tunisian judges, prosecutors and ministry of justice officials was hosted by Associate Professor of Law John T. Rago. After visiting local courthouses, the delegation gathered at the Duquesne University School of Law where they learned about American pre-trial detention, bail, probation supervision, technology efficiencies, problem solving courts/diversion programs, sentencing considerations and alternatives, and more from esteemed speakers Dr. Matt Kleinman of the Pennsylvania Sentencing Commission and Mark Bergstrom, Executive Director PA Sentencing Commission.

The Honorable Tom Corbett, school of law Executive in Residence joined the presentation to share his contributions to sentencing reform, before, during and after his term as Governor of Pennsylvania (2011-2015). "Before you go create a law, think about how many people might end up in prison because of it," he said.

The event was coordinated through the United States of America Embassy in Tunis, Tunisia by Zouhaier Jaouadi, Justice Reforms Advisor, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INS).

Two nimble translators helped the group understand the complex presentations and to interpret their questions.

Why Tunisia and Duquesne Law?

Last year, the U.S. State Department reached out to Pennsylvania Corrections Secretary John Wetzel, to seek his assistance on pretrial/probation and parole reforms that were taking root in Tunisia. In 2011, Tunisia was the birthplace of the "Arab Spring." It was and remains the only Arab nation where the transition from a theocracy to a secular form of government was accomplished without violence. Tunisia is a highly educated country and an area where the state department has determined to invest its resources to help to "westernize" some of their institutions, including, but not limited to criminal justice.

Associate Professor Rago's deep involvement in criminal justice reform was a logical connection to a small delegation from Tunisia who visited with the school in 2018, and continued on to Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties. Rago played a key role then, and throughout the year maintained contact with the group. Recently, with an assist from the State Department, a determination was made by the Tunisian guests to revisit the Law School with today's much larger contingent of decision-makers and other principals involved in this Tunisian reform process.

Topics covered included

• How does probation fit into judges options at sentencing?
• If probation is selected, what are some of the issues related to duration and to intensity?
• What happens when probation fails... sanctioning grids used by departments to try to address non-compliance short of revocation.
• What revocation means in terms of system flow with specific examples.
• The importance of data. The need to have it to track what you are doing, and to measure outcomes. Honest and reliable data, granular and aggregate. This is the 'data-driven' 'evidence-based' practice we endeavor to follow.

Rago says, "It is not lost on me that a nation some 5,000 miles away is working to emulate practices and expertise we have developed here. Perhaps they have realized what we are experiencing. Criminal justice is not a static construct. Progress doesn't begin and end. It is a constant effort, some harder than others."

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 8,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University’s academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim.

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