Poor people suffer a lot to get access to justice

poor people

Poor People Suffer A Lot, To Get Access To Justice

By Taiwo Okanlawon

Much of Nigeria’s prison population serves time without being sentenced. A 2017 report from Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics suggests Nigerian prisons may hold more innocent people than guilty criminals. The report, covering 2011-2015, estimated that 72.5% of Nigeria’s total prison population are serving time while awaiting trial and without being sentenced.

The problem is that poor people suffer a lot, they don’t get access to justice and even when they do, they don’t get it on time. It’s like a place where justice exists only for the highest bidder because when you go to most police stations, you’d see people who are being incarcerated, 95% of them are poor people.

One organization which has worked to change the system is Hope behind bars Africa, through provision of access to justice to the most vulnerable detainees. They are a member of the Campaign to Decriminalise Poverty & Status and technical partners with Catalyst 2030, NAMATI, and the World Coalition Against Death Penalty. They were granted Special Consultative status by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in June 2023.

The organization is seen as a pioneer human rights organization that is changing the Criminal Justice system using service delivery, legal aid, evidence-based advocacy and technology in Nigeria.

The initiative has helped to strengthen Nigeria’s Criminal Justice system and has empowered 102 incarcerated women, and represented 420 destitute pre-trial inmates. It has also inspired individuals and groups in other parts of the world to replicate its initiatives.

The organization provides free legal services and direct support to indigent individuals in contact with the criminal justice system while promoting reforms through research, evidence-based advocacy and technology. Over 7,000 justice-involved individuals have benefitted from their interventions and it has led campaigns for reforms surrounding the Nigerian criminal justice system, including the destigmatisation of ex-offenders, decriminalisation of petty offences, abolition of the mandatory death penalty, implementation of non-custodial measures amongst other areas of concern.

Going by reports, It has been providing pro-bono legal services to indigent pre-trial detainees in Nigeria, particularly in the Federal Capital Territory, Kano, Edo, Nasarawa and Niger States. By 2023 it had represented 415 pre-trial detainees; also representing and releasing 65 pre-trial detainees linked to the #EndSARS movement.

The said organization, has directly supported the empowerment of incarcerated persons either within the correctional centres or as they re-enter the society.

In 2020 Hope Behind Bars Africa, through the COVID-19 Emergency Welfare Intervention, donated 2.7 million naira worth of palliatives, and reached 8000+ inmates. The organisation also donated 500,000 naira worth of welfare items, and conducted a medical checkup for 35 persons, under the End SARS Emergency Intervention.

In 2023, The organization forged a partnership with Legend Golden Care Foundation to create the Accelerating Justice Reforms in Nigeria (AJURN) Project. AJURN is directed at the speedy dispensation of justice for detainees, and activation of the Non-Custodial Unit of the Correctional Service in Nigeria.

In conclusion, more organizations such as Hope behind bars Africa are seriously needed to improve the quality of life and outcomes for inmates and individuals released from correctional centers across the federation of Nigeria, so the poor amongst us can have access to justice and other interventions.

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