Close Icon

A break in the clouds: silver linings from 2021


A break in the clouds: silver linings from 2021
Paralegal Soloman Bazale is greeted by the Justice Defenders team in Uganda on his release.

A message from Justice Defenders Founder and CEO Alexander McLean

We rebranded to become Justice Defenders in 2020. It was a year of huge change for us and for the world. When prison doors were closed to us at the beginning of Covid we took our work online. We found new ways to establish proximity and tell our stories. We cried, reflected and debated in response to George Floyd's death.

2021 has seen continued change and for many, loss. Prisons must be some of the most challenging communities in which to endure a pandemic. Covid has increased backlogs for courts and in many cases, increased overcrowding in prisons.

Technology has allowed us to work at a greater scale and more effectively than previously. We now train paralegals in multiple prisons in multiple countries, side by side.

In the past year, more than:


people attended online courts using equipment we provided.


clients have received support in our 26 prison-based legal offices.


of our clients were subsequently released from prison.

We established new legal offices in prisons in Uganda and Kenya and launched Justice Defenders in The Gambia. Acting Director General of The Gambia Prison Service (GPS) Modou Jarju said: "Having paralegals within the prison walls serving their fellows, is the most meaningful engagement the GPS has had in the last decade. This is an engagement of substance, I have seen inmates being granted bail and others being released, this is really unprecedented in the history of our department."

The Gambia Country Manager Tim Bisong (left) with our first client in the country Mr Sidibeh upon his release.

This year we have received almost 100 requests from new communities for our work and dozens of approaches to establish new legal offices in prisons in countries in which we already work. We are committed to working to expand our impact in sustainable ways. Next year we plan to serve more than 50,000 people in our legal offices. We continue to be guided by our north star of serving one million clients by 2030.

I am grateful to each person who helps make this work possible. Guided by our values of humility, solidarity and bravery we will navigate the challenges and opportunities that 2022 brings.

Joyce Wanja Gitau (centre) with the paralegals who secured her release.

I leave you with a quote from one of our clients Joyce Wanja Gitau in Kenya, who said on her release: “You are successful when you remember that somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a gift. That gift is what started you in the right direction. Remember that you are blessed when you pass that gift on to help someone else. Thank you, Justice Defenders, for passing the gift to me.”

I hope you may provide the gift of hope this Christmas season.

Fuel the defence, or become a member of one of our communities:


The Solidarity

Your monthly donation enables us to invest in our defenceless communities, expand our programmes, and innovate around new solutions.
Find out more about The Solidarity

The Advocates

The Advocates is a select group of diverse, innovative philanthropists. Making a minimum unrestricted gift, the equivalent of £10,000 a year for three years.
Find out more about The Advocates

Thank you for standing in solidarity with us.

Alexander McLean
Founder and CEO