Access to justice has been an on-going concern for vulnerable groups especially children and the youth in Malawi. Despite the elaborate international framework that exists for juvenile justice, the fact remains that there is a big gap between this and the real situation on the ground, even where an appropriate legal framework exists, it is not properly implemented. Too many children come into contact with the formal criminal justice system unnecessarily and, once within the system, they are badly treated. There is insufficient use of alternatives; community-based measures are not well known and not promoted.
Too often it is the poorest children and youth, uneducated and most vulnerable children and youth who find themselves in prison. They are crammed into facilities not built for the numbers, with some operating at 600% capacity.
Children who are homeless and poor, who have fled home as a result of violence or neglect, as well as, those that suffer from mental health illness and substance abuse find themselves at special risk.
What we do
We work alongside prisoners and staff at Bangula and Nsanje prisons who choose each day to use their lives, and the resources they have, to help and support others.
We have a responsibility to support and develop these change-makers, and to give them the platform they need to share, inspire and motivate others.
We work across four key areas in the prisons:
- Access to Health
- Access to Justice
WHAT WE DO
Equipping prison staff with legal training and exposure to global best practice to ensure that prisoners’ rights are upheld – and that everyone is entitled to a fair and speedy trial, with the facility to access bail and appeal against unjust circumstances.
HOW WE DO IT
Legal Training Workshops: We provide legal training workshops to the prison staff and prisoners. Through this, we can support the many prisoners that are denied a fair trial simply because issues of poverty prevent them from accessing legal support.
ACCESS TO HEALTH
WHAT WE DO
Promoting the health and physical wellbeing of women and children at Chikwawa and Nsanje prisons through increased access to essential health services.
HOW WE DO IT
Health education and activities: Educating prisoners and prison staff on key health issues. This includes the introduction of basic activities that promote wellbeing through healthy bodies and minds – giving people the chance to put learned lessons into practise.
Clinical services and support: Providing basic medical training to prison staff so that they can deliver basic services and meet the health needs of those under their care (this includes the provision of nutritional support and HIV/AIDS programmes).
ACCESS TO JUSTICE
WHAT WE DO
We ensure that the rule of law, human rights and equal access to justice is promoted, respected and fulfilled across prison members.
HOW WE DO IT
Human rights training: In-house training to prisoners and prison staff to become Prison Human Rights Advocates and Peer Educators. This means that they can then provide simple, accessible information about the court process to those in need.
Lobbying for timely processing of cases the police and court:
One of the drawbacks in Malawi’s justice system is institutional inability to fast track cases. This has resulted in congestion in the cells and prisons of Malawi. The majority of these are the poor and uneducated youth and children. This gives an impression that access to justice favours the rich and adults.
Training of Social Worker Volunteers:
The project trains Social Worker Volunteers who work as children social aids in police, courts and prisons. These Social Workers visit the selected courts and prisons daily to check the children cases records and monitor their situation including gathering statistics such as the number of children in prison, meet prisons/courts staff, individual meeting with the young offenders, collect map/phone contact, set date for home assessment. The Social Workers also conduct daily legal aid clinics to children offenders, assist them to complete standard bail forms or appeals forms if need be.
Systemic education: Imprisonment comes at the end of a long chain of decisions that involves legislators, policy makers, the police, prosecutors and courts. The justice system therefore has to be seen as a whole. That’s why we create opportunities for officials to visit prisons and see first-hand the transformation that is possible behind bars. We also provide platforms and forums for officials to discuss challenges that affect access to justice – supporting them in fostering a human rights culture across prison communities.
WHAT WE DO
Counselling sessions to children and the youth in the prison and their families.
Research findings have shown that the average child in rehabilitation psychotherapy shows greater improvement than 80% of similarly troubled children who do not receive therapy. Counselling is very important in enhancing social reintegration at the same time preventing reoffending. It is in this line that the project gives counselling sessions weekly to the youth and their families at Chikwawa and Nsanje prisons.
An authorized volleyball match between the Nchalo Prison inmates and members of YCD.
Inmates are often shunned by their people after being released from prison. But the YCD believes that these prisoners deserve every right to better their life and contribute to their community.
This project not only established a better relationship between the community and the prisoners but also a better understanding that will hopefully improve their reintegration process back into society.