Flaws exist within criminal justice systems all over the world. Several justice systems in Africa have a design to ensure speedy and fair trials for defendants, but some are lacking. Furthermore, while several African governments take on the responsibility of providing adequate legal representation for defendants, some do not meet these standards. Many criminal justice systems in Africa lack quality legal aid due to increasing levels of illiteracy, corruption and poverty. Defendants with proper legal aid have a fighting chance in court.
Justice Defenders is a nonprofit that works within four African countries to provide prisoners with skills to defend themselves in court. This organization recognizes that the justice systems in Africa are suffering and aims to transform the lives of people who struggle within it.
Alexander Mclean educated prison communities about the law in Uganda. As a result, he founded Justice Defenders in 2007. This organization currently consists of over 350 workers across over 40 prisons in Africa. England and Wales recognized the organization as a charity. The United States recognizes it as a nonprofit as well. Recently, its impact has captured a lot of positive media attention.
Many other organizations aim to provide defendants with access to more lawyers. However, Justice Defenders works to train new lawyers who are living within the system. The organization believes that defendants have the ability to improve the justice system in Africa from the inside. The Defenders’ model has three core values: education, training and practice. Additionally, the organization partners with top law schools to train prisoners as lawyers and prison staff as paralegals. Furthermore, it runs clinics and offers free aid for those who would not have access otherwise.
Morris Kaberia was a Kenyan police officer when he experienced imprisonment under robbery charges. However, he spent nine years waiting for his trial and in 2013, he received the death sentence. Fortunately, after meeting with members of Justice Defenders, he successfully appealed his case and effectively represented himself in court. Kaberia spent 13 years in prison before his release in 2018. Later, Kaberia studied law at the University of London and is currently representing other prisoners in Africa.
Justice Defenders have successfully served over 30,000 imprisoned clients and have trained over 300 paralegals in over 40 prisons in Uganda and Kenya. Furthermore, it has overturned over 150 sentences and has sent over 15,000 prisoners home to their families. This organization partners with the University of London and 91% of students pass courses offered. The organization’s website tracks and records many success stories of prisoners and students.
While there are still many flaws within justice systems in Africa, organizations such as Justice Defenders are positively instilling change from within the system. Furthermore, Mclean hopes to impact at least 1 million African prisoners within 10 years.
– Grace Wang