Please help African Prisons Project to provide at lease 2 women access to Legal Education through The University of London.
In general, the conditions in African prisons are painfully poor. Many are severely overcrowded, lack sanitation and are unable to provide adequate nutrition. Access to books and education is limited or non-existent. Medical facilities are wholly inadequate.
The African Prisons Project exists because we believe there is a need to recognise the inherent worth of every human being.
We work in a continent where physical punishment and the death penalty are still widespread and where, for many people, a prison sentence means hard labour. We serve countries with police forces and prison services which are often underfunded and undertrained. Countries where many people are in prison for being vagabonds or vagrants; debtors or loiterers; criminal lunatics or lunatic criminals. Countries where the death penalty is given for witchcraft or procuring an abortion, mutiny, treason and cowardice.
Almost all the prisoners that we serve have never met a lawyer. Many wait in prison for years, even decades before going to court and in many countries more than two thirds of prisoners have not been convicted of an offence.
Draft new legislation in Uganda proposes the death penalty for gay people (aggravated homosexuality) and imprisonment for families who fail to report their gay relatives to the police within 24 hours of finding out about their sexuality. In many African countries those imprisoned for being in debt are made to pay rent to the prison service. Women will often be imprisoned in place of their husbands if their husband cannot be found. More than 90% of prisoners in countries like Uganda have to defend themselves at court.
Until recently African Prisons Project has dedicated the majority of its work to improving conditions within prisons, by building medical centres and libraries, and improving sanitation. In the last few years however, it has become increasingly clear that one of the biggest issues in the prisons in which we work, is the lack of access to justice that these prisoners face. In the UK we take it for granted that government provided legal aid is our right, if ever we are unfortunate enough to find ourselves in a position to need it. In the countries in which we work, legal aid does not exist. Therefore, if people are facing court proceedings with no legal knowledge, no lawyer, and often in a language that they do not understand, it is near impossible for them to face a fair trial. We realised that above all else, it was this that needed to be tackled.
And so we created our Access to Justice Programme. We have already aided 15 male students and one female in accessing qualifications via distance learning with the University of London. However, this does not even begin to scratch the surface of the need for legally trained people in the system.
So, in countries where women, as a general rule, have far fewer opportunities to access education, African Prisons Project wants to support more women in accessing this project! In addition, our one current female student, Susan, has proven that women are just as, if not more capable, at succeeding in this project. She is our brightest student as of yet, having achieved a 2:1 this year, only just missing out on a first class qualification.
We must invest in these women, whom have the intelligence, the motivation, the potential and the drive to succeed, if they are only supported in accessing this education. They can then represent themselves, and advise and aid other inmates in their own proceedings.
Susan has aided in overturning her own death sentence since beginning her studies through the University of London, and now runs a legal clinic within the prison to help fellow inmates with their cases. Another of our students has also overturned his death sentence, and has since been released and fully cleared of all charges. He is now back working for the Ugandan army.
This is such an important project. It costs African Prisons Project £2,500 to put a student through this undergraduate law qualification. This covers the fees, the cost of examinations, books and stationary, and funds lecturers and advisors coming in to the prisons to offer individual help and group classes.
So far this project has saved the lives of two people originally condemned to death purely because they did not have access to the legal aid and knowledge necessary to sufficiently defend themselves. It has also created an environment in which inmates are qualified to aid each other in accessing a fairer criminal justice system.
Please help us to continue to make this project a success. Please help us to provide access to education to women whom have been stripped of their lives and their identity, and help them to defend themselves and those around them justly.
A fair and accountable justice system should be every person’s right. Please help African Prisons Project in making this happen.
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