Standing in solidarity in support of prisoners’ human rights
Prisoners’ Justice Day emerged as a prisoner-initiated day of non-violent action to commemorate the death of Eddie Nalon in Millhaven maximum-security prison on August 10th 1974. First observed in 1975, the following year, prisoners of Millhaven called on “all prisoners and concerned peoples from across Canada” to participate in a one-day hunger strike in support of prisoners’ rights and in memory of Eddie Nalon. Prisoners’ Justice Day has since become an internationally-recognised day of solidarity and action and provides an opportunity to reflect on the current state of prisoners’ rights across the world.
In Africa, the carrying capacity of a typical prison is 300%, which in itself is a breach of basic human rights; some prisoners can be waiting in pre-trial detention for up to three years and only 0.3% of prisoners are aware of their right to a fair and speedy trial. With such extreme conditions there is a significant challenge to penal reform within African prisons, but we believe that by working holistically to provide access to health, education, life skills and access to justice we can model a human rights based approach to prisons, placing the power of change within the hands of prison communities.
We also want to celebrate the achievements and steps taken towards restoring hope and dignity to prisoners, and to continue to inspire prison communities to be places of opportunity and rehabilitation.
Through the work of our various projects, and through the help of our supporters, we are proud to say that last year we supported almost 20,000 prisoners receive improved access to justice, health and education. We currently have 46 students studying Law through our University of London Distance Learning Programme – who happen to be expecting exam results today! – who have in turn supported over 300 prisoners access justice since January 2016. We’ve recently celebrated the launch of a new library and legal clinic and are expecting to roll out a paralegal programme across three prisons in Kenya, aiding the speedy delivery of justice.
However, there is still a significant need in many African prisons and many more prisoners who deserve their basic human rights. Today, we stand with them in solidarity and remember those who have suffered injustice behind bars.
As part of the Prisoners’ Justice Day celebration, John Muthuri,
Paralegal Manager in Kenya, carried out an awareness session on
self-representation at Naivasha Maximum Security Prison.