About the Project
This project is one of the 2020 WISE Awards winners.
The Call for Applications for the 2021 WISE Awards is now open.
Apply by December 20, 2020.
Justice Defenders (formerly African Prisons Project) aims to increase access to justice for Kenyan and Ugandan inmates through legal education, training and practice.
Context and Issue
Kenya’s and Uganda’s criminal justice systems are typically congested, with many individuals unduly incarcerated due to the lack of legal services. Most are from marginalized backgrounds and don’t have the means to hire a lawyer. They also lack basic legal knowledge to defend themselves in court, which can lead to unfair sentences. Many of the inmates we work with have faced prolonged periods in prison without a chance for appeal.
Solution and Impact
Through the Legal Education, Training, and Practice Program, legal education is used to empower inmates to advocate for their own rights and seek resolution to their cases. Participants undergo paralegal training, gaining an understanding of the law and judicial system and acquiring skills in case management and legal research. Eligible participants also receive a full scholarship to earn a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of London through distance learning.
Program graduates serve as paralegals in our prison-based legal aid clinics, where they provide free legal services to other inmates. They also conduct legal awareness sessions, educating their peers about human rights and options for legal recourse. To date, they have assisted in over 20,000 individual cases, resulting in over 8,000 releases. And over 150,000 inmates have benefited from their legal awareness sessions.
Through the program’s educational approach, the organization was able to restore agency to incarcerated individuals, allowing them to gain the confidence to help themselves and their fellow inmates, and to advocate for reforms in the justice system. In the future, the organization seeks to form partnerships with stakeholders to promote the education-based approach and recommend its government adoption in the long term.