What We do

Prison Reforms : Justice Centres Project

The Justice Centres project was initiated in 2008 as a pilot to promote increased access to justice and protection of human rights of poor and indigent arrested persons within the criminal justice system in West Africa.  The original idea was to pilot it in Ghana and extend it to Liberia and Sierra Leone.  However due to funding constraints the implementation over the years has been limited to Ghana. The programme, which mainly relies on paralegals due to the dirge of lawyers in Ghana has among others the objective of increasing availability and accessibility of legal assistance services to persons accused of crimes, increasing awareness of fundamental human rights, especially fair trial rights and reduce the number of pre-trial detainees.  It also seeks to review pre-trial detention practices, particularly at the police stations and advocate for reforms. Paralegals operate from two Justice Centres; one in Accra and the other in Kumasi and visit selected Police Stations at least twice a week to provide pro bono legal advice to suspects immediately after arrest and also educate them and their families on the rights of arrested persons. Over the past five years the Justice Centres has assisted over 3,000 suspects in selected Police stations in Accra and Kumasi to access justice either by educating them on their rights, facilitating bail for them or linking them up with pro bono lawyers. In March 2011 organised a sub-regional conference on access to justice for indigent arrested person for people working in that thematic area to share experience and learn from each other to improve their work. Participants were drawn from Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Gambia and Ghana.   One notable outcome of the Conference is the adoption of a legal aid week in Ghana to commemorate the importance legal aid/assistance. The project has been successful in ensuring that prolonged pre-trial detentions at the selected Police stations have been brought to the barest minimum.  In a number of instances suspects who had been given tools to defend their rights were able to represent themselves in court and were acquitted. Another key achievement is that the project has resulted in an official collaboration between the Faculty of Law of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology for interested third year law students to undergo training and subsequently participate in police station and prison visits as part of practical learning.The collaboration which began in 2014 has seen about 61 law students participating as paralegals.