Vera works collaboratively with reformers in China to facilitate justice innovations and policy changes that are rooted in experience, guided by empirical methods, and consistent with international human rights standards. Vera’s work in China, supported by the Ford Foundation, builds on the knowledge and drive of local universities and government partners.
Our technical assistance has informed a range of projects, including pilot projects seeking to
- Establish the practice of having live witnesses testify at trials
- Reduce detention of juveniles
- Provide mediation alternatives to trials
- Record police interrogations to deter torture and coercion.
Having observed these programs in operation, Vera staff have helped Chinese researchers work through methodological challenges like what data to collect, how to construct a control or comparison group, and how to build support for innovation among justice system officials.
At the request of our Chinese partners, and in partnership with the Center for Procedural Law Research of the China University of Political Science and Law, in 2006 Vera published Experimentation and Reform: Empirical Methods for Improving Justice Systems. This book sought to introduce and extend the use of the empirical research methods that are necessary to develop, test, and refine solutions to problems in the justice system in China.
In early 2009, Vera launched the Fellowship in Justice Research and Innovation to support Chinese researchers seeking to advance the use of empirical research methods. Four fellows worked jointly with Vera staff in developing pilot program and evaluation designs. Based on past efforts of this type, staff are also collaborating with Chinese experts to co-author a book focused on Chinese adaptations to Vera’s empirical methods of criminal justice reform.
Vera staff often serve as guest speakers at Chinese academic institutions on the use of empirical research methods to advance reform. Past partners have included the Chinese Academy of Social Science, the Chinese Prosecutorate’s School, the China University of Political Science, Beijing Normal University, Sichuan University, and Renmin University.
Why This Work Matters
China’s justice systems traditionally did not use empirical research methods to assess the efficacy of its practices and institutions. For legal reformers in China seeking to improve the country’s justice institutions and practices, collaboration with Vera has fostered an interest in and use of evidence-based research, allowing Chinese reformers and their government partners to adapt these methods to their own systems.
For more information, please contact Caitlin Gokey.