A chapter of progress, despite the pain.


A chapter of progress, despite the pain.

We’re eight months into Covid-19. As we reflect on the pandemic so far, we find both progress and pain. In a world that seems more connected and divided than ever before, our defenders are using this unique chapter in history to keep the wheels of justice turning.

Prisons are mostly hidden places – unseen and rarely talked about. Especially in trying times like these. So countless voices are lost in the noise. But we are listening.


From lockdown day one, we responded to the immediate needs on the ground and piloted new forms of digital justice. And now we wonder what it would look like to think of technology first as we design future interventions and scale within other defenceless communities.

“We need to behave abnormally” was the slogan at our first virtual paralegal training for inmates and prison officers. What started as a Covid-19 response has become a new way of planning our programmes. Our target remains one million fair hearings by 2030. And digital justice will play a major role in reaching this ambition. So far this year:


In August, Justice Defenders was selected as a semifinalist out of 1,297 applications in 119 countries for the MIT Solve Elevate Prize. This month, we were named one of six winners out of 625 projects considered for the Qatar Foundation’s WISE Awards.

And we won the prestigious Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize. The $50,000 prize recognises "individuals who have demonstrated leadership in their fields and who show creativity, commitment, and extraordinary accomplishment in effecting positive social change.” A well-deserved honour for a team that studies and works tirelessly to close the global justice gap.

“It has been a demanding, challenging year for our community. Whether you're studying law behind bars or finding new ways to advance fair hearings from the outside, I hope this Grinnell Prize recognition gives us all a respite of joy. As Cornel West wisely stated, ‘justice is what love looks like in public.’ A reminder that while we defend the defenceless in the pursuit of justice, we do so through the strong bonds of care and love for each other. I extend my congratulations to all of us.” – ALEXANDER MCLEAN