A LAW college is to be established in a prison in Kenya to mark ten years of the African Prisons Project (APP) this month.
The charity was founded by Alexander McLean to improve education and health care in prisons in East Africa, after he helped to treat a group of prisoners from Luzira Upper Prison, while volunteering at a hospital in Kampala, Uganda. He has since visited more than 130 prisons in 15 countries.
The college will open in Kenya in 2020, and will be the first of its kind, Mr McLean says. As well as training in law, he expects to provide legal services to at least 10,000 people in prison, resulting in the release of an estimated 4000 prisoners.
The APP is already supporting more than 60 prisoners and prison staff to study law through the International Programme of the University of London, with which the organisation is partnered. “Our students have been involved in several Supreme Court cases, including one which resulted in the abolition of the mandatory death sentence in Uganda.”
Explaining the decision to improve legal support in prisons, Mr McLean said: “Prisons are filled with poor people who have often had limited access to quality legal services. We have been asking ourselves: would the world be different if those who’ve experienced conflict with the law became lawyers? How would it be if the poor accessed the same quality of legal services as the rich? Would our prisons be less full? Would our nations be more just? Now, we train prisoners and prison staff to become lawyers.”
Mr McLean is a graduate of the Tearfund initiative Inspired Individuals, which helped him to set up the original project. The programme identifies and connects “change-makers” in communities across the world, to help improve their mission. “It gave me a superb peer-group, helped me understand my own strengths and weaknesses, and explore how my faith and values could be manifest in my work,” he said.
The head of Inspired Individuals at Tearfund, Nicola Temple, said: “We’re incredibly proud to be celebrating African Prison Project’s ten-year anniversary, and their vision to put the power of the law into the hands of the poor.”