Source: The Huffington Post


Empowering prisoners In Africa through legal education

Too often it is the poorest, least educated and most vulnerable who find themselves in prison. Across Africa, there are some inmates who will never meet a lawyer. They are crammed into facilities, some operating at 300% capacity.

Nelson Mandela once said, “no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails.”

Over the past 10 years, I’ve visited prisons all around Africa, where the majority of prisoners are still awaiting trial. Prison is an environment totally alien to most people. For those who are suddenly taken from their village and community, it is a shocking encounter with an overwhelming and impersonal system.

Whilst the law is in place to ensure access to justice and uphold basic human rights, poverty and ignorance often mean the accused have no voice within that system.

Lawyers can speak for those who are otherwise silent. They defend our most fundamental rights. If a prisoner has access to the law, the difference can be life-changing. It can keep someone from having their children taken away, from losing their home and livelihood, or even free someone from the death penalty.

But with so much overcrowding and without financial means to employ a lawyer, too many remain in prison for too long, just waiting for their day in court. I wondered what would happen if we offered prisoners the chance to fight for their own rights and study for a legal qualification themselves.

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