In Kenya and Uganda, up to 80% of those in prison have never seen a lawyer, estimates African Prison Project (APP) founder Alexander McLean.
A new Al Jazeera documentary looks at the APP’s innovative response: helping prisoners in East Africa teach each other law so that they can help mount their own defence and represent each other in court. Over 2,000 inmates have been released or had their sentences reduced as a result.
Ugandan Susan Kigula was APP’s first female law student. She was sentenced to death in 2002 and separated from her then one-year-old child. Thanks to her law studies, she was released in January 2016 after playing a role in getting her own death sentence overturned. She recently graduated with a Diploma in Law from the University of London, who are partnering with APP.
McLean founded the project in his second year at university. It’s now working with 30 prisons in Africa, including maximum security facilities like Naivasha in Kenya. At Naivasha, most of the inmates were illiterate but now 50% are in formal education through this initiative. Once the prisoners master literacy and numeracy, APP encourages them to study law. Prisoners who show academic and leadership potential are encouraged to become teachers and even principals.
APP is one of six ground-breaking initiatives around the world featured in Rebel Education, a new Al Jazeera documentary series that explores learning models from around the world which are challenging the dominant ideas of education. Rebel Education is currently screening on Thursdays.
The episode with the East African prisoners studying to become lawyers, Rebel Education: Teaching Empowerment screens on Al Jazeera English on 2 February 2017 at 1630 GMT/1930 EAT.