Community Involvement in Crime Prevention and Judicial Process: The Experience of Saudi Arabia

Article excerpt

Community justice is a relatively new trend in Western countries. The concept refers to all measures that explicitly include the community in the justice process (Karp and Clear, 2000), especially instances in which crime and justice affect community life. Community justice includes the processes of community crime prevention (Bennet, 1998), community policing (Goldstein, 1990), community defence (Stone, 1996), community prosecution (Boland, 1998), community courts (Rottman, 1996), and restorative sanctioning system (Bazemore, 1998). The traditional aim of community justice is not to replace the existing justice system, nor to invalidate any existing procedural rights of offenders and victims, but rather to arrange a sanction that is fair and substantively adequate to meeting the needs of the victim, the offender and the community, and further enhance the community quality of life (Clear and Karp, 2000).

Traditional criminal justice is normally claimed and realised by both judicial and police systems, which are governmental organs. In line with these agencies, the avenues of community justice are typically regarded to be democratic and decentralised. The distinct traditional boundaries between the role of the state and the role of community are challenged in the community justice approach. From this perspective, community justice is viewed to be far removed from Middle Eastern countries, which are often accused of being autocratic, thus, lacking the perceived foundations of democracy. However, at its core, the focus of community justice is public safety and the quality of community life, which is not exclusive to any governmental or political system. A look at Middle Eastern cultures illustrates that community justice does exist in these Islamic countries; moreover, presence may be more substantial than in Western countries. Islamic countries are characterised with low crime rates (Fajnzylber et al., 1998; Haroon, 1993; Mohammad, 1991; Souryal, 1990; United Nations, 1993), which Western scholars tend to attribute to harsh punishments, such as amputation, beheading, or public stoning. However, the true reason may lie in less extreme aspects of society, including the prevalence of community justice.

Community justice in the Middle East, perceived as a partnership between formal criminal justice and the community, is deeply rooted in religion and social institutions. It operates at a policing stage, adjudicating stage, or correcting stage. They target community-level outcomes by focusing on problem solving (short- or long-term), restoring victims and communities, strengthening normative standards and reintegrating offenders (Crawford, 1995).

Islam and law

The word of 'Islam' means 'submission or surrender to Allah's (God's) will'. All Muslims must first and foremost obey and submit to Allah's will. Of course, Islam is not merely a religious influence but also a set of political, legal, economic, and social doctrines that influence and guide the norms and practices of believers and societies (Kurtz, 1995; Groves et al., 1985; Turner, 1974). For Muslims and for those living in Islamic states, theocracy heavily influences all matters, both public and private. Islamic law is controlled, ruled and regulated by the Islamic religion, which is inherently different from the common law or continent law systems. There is a lack of separation of mosque (church) and state in Islamic law--a fact that is often novel, and sometimes misunderstood, for non-Muslim scholars. The religion, law, and government are integrated. The judiciary is not an independent institution but an extension of the political authority. Although implementation of this concept varies across different Islamic countries, all governments and civil authorities are based on it (Wiechman, Kendall and Azarian: online). Saudi Arabia is a state which particularly sticks to traditional Islamic law which is known as Shariah law.

The Shariah law means the path to follow God's law. …