The Chichiri Drama Group on Tour in Chichiri Prison in 2012
Every year large numbers of people are detained unecessarily in police stations and prisons across Malawi, simply because they are unaware of their right to bail. Please help us spread the word and change this.
CHREAA (Centre for Human Rights, Education, Advice and Assistance) has been implementing The Malawi Bail Project in the Southern Region of Malawi since 2012. The project was set up in response to the huge numbers of people detained because they were unaware of their right to bail, increasing overcrowding in the existing poor living conditions in the prisons. The work of the project has been well received by the prison service, police and magistrates with more police stations requesting to become partners and provide accessible information, provided by Malawi Bail Project. We are currently implementing a new project activity, working with members of an ex-prisoners drama group who are devising a play about the bail procedure, drawing on their own experiences. This play will tour prisons, schools and marketplaces targeting those at risk of offending with the same information in a fun, accessible way.
In the last six months, the Malawi Bail Project has assisted over 23,000 arrested people to apply for bail, and we receive daily requests from courts and police stations to help many more. We need your help to meet this demand!
The Chichiri Drama Group demonstrating the way prisoners sleep due to overcrowding in cells
We are looking for £5,000 and every penny you can spare will help our incredible local team ensure that those who need it get the information they need in formats which are accessible to them.
£5,000 will enable us to provide: 2 Police stations installed with Malawi Bail Project materials, 10 Camp Courts in prison, 24 community awareness raising performances (reaching 4,800 people) and 50 support group meetings for ex-offenders.
We will be posting regular updates on our blog at www.malawibailproject.com. Keep in touch on facebook: www.facebook.com/malawibailproject and www.facebook.com/chreaamalawi. Instagram: MalawiBail and Twitter: @bail_blantyre @chreaamalawi
The Chichiri Drama Group in a court scene at Maula Prison in 2012
Why? 90% of detainees in Malawi will go through the court process without a lawyer. As a result, detainees depend on the free advice and assistance provided through the Bail Project. Without this information on how and when to apply for bail, innocent people and people who have committed petty, non-violent offences can be imprisoned for months or years in inhumane conditions awaiting trial. The average time spent in prison awaiting trial is two years. There are 9 prisons in the Southern Region of Malawi, built to hold 2,500 inmates, currently holding 3,662 inmates.
Overcrowded prisons mean the already limited prison budget cannot provide adequate nutrition, sanitation or health care for inmates which results in poor health, the spread of infectious diseases and sometimes death.
How? The Malawi Bail Project has five high-impact, low-cost activities.
1) Distribution of booklets with information about bail application in Chichewa and illustrations in Magistrates Courts and Police Stations.
2) Installation of speaker systems in police stations and courts which play audio tapes of information about how to apply for bail.
3) Discussion groups with Magistrates and police officers to discuss how to make the system more accessible
4) Providing a toll-free Paralegal advice line for detainees and family members to receive practical advice
5) Camp courts - a judge is brought to the prison to consider bail applications from those accused of minor offences
In addition we will be holding the community performances by the ex-prisoners drama group across Blantyre and the Southern Region!
The Chichiri Drama Group members performing as inmates in 2012, all of whom have now been released
There has been a drama group at Chichiri Prison since 2011 and now those who are being released from that group are using the skills they learnt in prison to support each other, and find something positive to do. Life is very hard for those recently released and they are often ostracised by family and support networks. This group is self organised and led by ex-prisoners who are passionate about re-integration into the community and using the arts for transformation.