Enhancing Access to Justice for Prisoners

Statistical data gathered by the Paralegal Advisory Services (PAS) indicates that pre-trial inmates comprise a staggering 53% of the prison population, higher that than those serving sentences.  In light of this, PAS has since 2005 worked with paralegals and Social Workers to provide basic legal assistance in the districts of Arua, Gulu, Kitgum, Lira, Mbale, Jinja, Kampala, Luzira, Mbarara, Bushenyi and Kabarole. Through the use of paralegals and working directly in prisons, PAS has promoted access to justice by eliminating barriers that would prevent people from accessing lawyers and courts and helping inmates to understand and exercise their rights.

Throughout the year period, the PAS team assisted inmates in the central prisons by linking them to courts, registrars’ and deputy registrars’ offices, judges, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and law firms for bail applications and trial representation. The team also prepared and submitted to the Director of Public Prosecution’s office lists of inmates who have overstayed so that their cases are listed in subsequent High Court sessions. Consequently, a total of 56,997 people (from July 2011 to June 2013) were released from Prison with facilitation from the PAS team. This served to decongest prisons and complementarily link suspects/inmates to their relatives and friends.

The PAS team further contacted and sensitized a total of 113,954 sureties to equip them with knowledge of the courts’ expectations. Some of the sureties were able to obtain relevant court documents and finally assist their relatives and friends obtain bail. As a result 961 cases were concluded through fine payment and 3,193 through community services. As a result some inmates were given short custodial sentences.