Call For Application

Hope behind Bars Africa Initiative in partnership with Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide invites suitably qualified candidates to apply for its 1st Short Course on Capital Representation for Law Students and Young lawyers scheduled to take place in July 2020.

Introduction

As at May 2020, 72.2% of people in correctional facilities in Nigeria are awaiting trial. Research indicates that indigent pre-trial detainees struggle to access legal representation as few attorneys specialize in criminal defense. Due to systemic failures and lack of resources innocent women and men risk been sentenced to death for offences they never committed. It is our belief that because the death penalty is an irreparable sanction, its imposition should only occur when the defendant is well-represented.

Course Overview

The course encourages its participants to approach death penalty representation strategically beginning from the first meeting with the client in prison. It includes topics that examine the steps involved in interviewing and counseling clients facing capital charges and how to elicit facts for mitigation investigation. Participants will be introduced to how issues of mental health and intellectual disability come to play in their client’s case.  Other presentations include International human rights law and how to approach UN treaty bodies, maximizing the law clinic experience to compete globally and a session that opens participants up to the possibilities in capital representation using the Malawi Capital Resentencing Project as a case study. Beyond the theoretical aspect, interested and selected participants will have the opportunity to learn empirically with the organization’s capital trial project.”

Faculty

The faculty consists of practitioners from  Cornell University Center on Death Penalty Worldwide, the alumni of its Makwanyane Institute and its human rights partners combining both an academic analysis and a practical assessment of different human rights/death penalty situation faced by law clinic students and lawyers around the world.

Eligibility Criteria

Participants need to be :

  • Law students from 300 level to 500 level who have shown interest in pro bono work or are members of a law clinic. OR young lawyers  less than 3 years post call with demonstrable interest in human rights or criminal justice.
  • Be resident in Abuja, Nigeria.                

 *Female students and lawyers are strongly encouraged to apply.

RECENT NEWS

WE SECURE THE RELEASE OF 5 INDIGENT AWAITING TRIAL INMATES!

On the 27th of April, 2020 we secured the release of 5 indigent young men who were inmates of Oko correctional Facility, Benin-city, Edo state. This comes under our Access to Justice Program and specifically Zero COVID 19 in prison decongestion project.

All 5 men had spent more time awaiting trial than the time they would have spent had they been convicted for the various crimes for which they were charged.

For Emmanuel Adan (pseudonym), the main offence he was charged with under S.428 of the criminal code law of Edo carried a fine of N40 but he had spent 5 months in prison already. The other 4 were arrested for wandering and breach of peace since February. An offence which carries a fine of 1 month imprisonment with no option of fine. One of them, had come from Ebonyi to visit a relative when he was arrested.

We wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of Edo state Hon. Justice Esther Edigin informing her about 8 of our cases prior to the decongestion exercise and during the exercise, our counsel Emmanuel Okorie who had been representing the defendants advocated for their release. Out of the 8 cases we submitted, 5 were released. This is addition to 8 other inmates released by the CJ. The CJ expressed her appreciation and commended us for partnering with the state to make the decongestion exercise smooth.

We supported the inmates with funds for their logistics and
immence plans have begun for their reintergration back to the society.

Over time, public health emergencies such as the corona virus outbreak poses huge socio-economic burden on individuals, families and nations. Evidence shows that vulnerable populations especially people in shielded environments such as correctional facilities are disproportionately affected in multiple ways.

This is the case for correctional facilities in Nigeria, a country with 70% of its prison population awaiting trial with little or non existent healthcare systems behind bars, congested cells and inmates living in unsanitary conditions.

As an organisation, we are advocating for the decongestion of Nigeria’s custodial centres  as a major step to fighting COVID 19 in prison. In addition, we launched the a COVID 19  ‘Emergency Welfare intervention for Prison Inmates’  This is to supplement the efforts of the government in catering for the prison population. This is of utmost importance at this moment considering that the religious organisations and NGOS who otherwise support the efforts of the government have been banned from prison visits.

We secured approval from the Comptroller of Prisons, Nasarawa state Command CP Felix to pilot the first phase of this project at the Keffi Custodial centre.

We call on the members of the public and organizations to join us as we take relief items to this very vulnerable population.

photo credit- Premier News

“A PEOPLE AT RISK: COVID 19 IN NIGERIA’S CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES”

Photo credit – Human Rights Watch

It was reported on 31st March, 2020 that inmates of the Kaduna custodial center attempted a jail break due to fears that COVID -19 was in in their facility. This particular center has a holding capacity of 540 but currently holds 1200 – 1400 inmates at an average. Social distancing or self-isolation in an overcrowded environment is impossible as it is also the case in other custodial centers across the country.  Reports further stated that in other to curb the unrest, arms where fired at inmates which led to injury of two. This is a flagrant human rights violation that could have been avoided if the government has been more proactive.

We are fighting a common enemy of which only few nations of the world are exempted for now.  In other to completely combat the coronavirus, protection of the lives of vulnerable populations must be prioritized. The unsanitary conditions of our congested facilities, the non-existence of health care and the absence of specialized hands in prison would lead to fatal consequences. Faith based organizations, NGOS and individuals who support the welfare of inmates have been restricted from visits and major cities are on lockdown. This means malnutrition among inmates would be at an increase making them less immune to the virus infection.

 Furthermore, the risk of the virus been brought into the centers by staff who are daily commuting from the prisons to their communities is as high as a staff contracting it and spreading it in their communities especially as correctional staff offer essential services and  thus are not affected by any lockdown. Eventually, we would all suffer the consequences of a further delay in decongestion.

We hereby urge the presidency and the governors of all states to leverage on their powers under S.175 of the 1999 Constitution to decongest our prisons now. We recommend that the following set of inmates be released as releasing them would not lead to a surge in criminal activity or fuel social unrest at this time.Inmates over the age of 65 who have served at least one-third of their sentence. 

  1. Inmates over the age of 55 with underlying health conditions.
  2. Minor offenders with a sentence of less than three years.
  3. Minor offenders serving terms with an option of fine.
  4. All pregnant women awaiting trial should be granted bail with conditions that will ensure their attendance at trial when court sessions resumes.

We further recommend that part of the funds donated towards combating the COVID-19 should be directed towards the swift implementation of these measures and the measures spelled out in the Nigerian Correctional Service Strategic Preparedness Plan.

These measures could spare thousands of hospitalizations, relieve pressure on our nation’s already strained health system and, most importantly, save lives. The cost of decongestion far outweighs the cost of a jail break or a COVID-19 Outbreak. We urge the government to recognize the urgency at hand and take immediate action.

WhatsApp Image 2019-09-13 at 1.43.52 PM(2)

Hope behind Bars Africa organizes knowledge sharing session On Death Penalty with Law Clinic Students

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In July 2019, our Executive Director and Senior Counsel, Funke Adeoye, joined 14 other Capital Defense lawyers in common law countries in Africa to be trained by world class capital defense attorneys, practitioners, mental health experts etc on ] best practices in representing  clients  facing the death penalty. The training was organised by Cornell University’s Center on Death Penalty Worldwide’s Makwanyane Institute, an institute named after the celebrated case of S v Makwanyane where capital punishment was abolished in South Africa.

As part of our Death Penalty project at Hope Behind Bars Africa, we organised our first knowledge sharing session for law clinic students of University of Abuja law school.

The aim of the training was to create awareness and introduce issues around death penalty to aspiring advocates and capital defenders as well as to create a forum for further engagement on the topic.

The time spent with the students was engaging and interactive and we look forward to more opportunities to create awareness on this global issue.

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nhrc

Hope Behind Bars Africa Secures the Support of the National Human Rights Commission

“Our success has really been based on partnerships from the very beginning”
Bill Gates

Today, a delegation of Hope Behind bars Africa led by the Executive Director, Funke Adeoye paid a working visit to the National Human Rights Commission at its headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria.

The Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of the Commision, Mr. Tony Ojukwu, received us alongside Mr. Iheme Richmond, Assistant Director (Investigation and Montitoring) who also  leads the team at the Commission on  Police, Prisons and Other Regulatory Bodies. Also in attendance from Hope Behind Bars Africa were Osarieme Omoruyi, Esher Akhigbe, Nkechi Dim, and Emmanuel Agabi.

After we shared our impact story with him, the Executive Secretary Mr. Tony Ojukwu, expressed his excitement at the sight of young people working passionately on human rights and access to justice issues . He stated that the commission is willing to provide support to Hope behind Bars Africa in all ways possible. He also espoused the need for us to enlarge our capacity for greater impact.

He further stated specific prison related  projects that the commission had carried out with the hope of continuity and urged us to keep up the good work as we sealed the support  of the Commission towards ensuring that Human Rights is entrenched across correctional facilities in  Nigeria, one custodial centre at a time.

For us at the organisation, we believe partnerships are necessary to achieving our goals in line with Sustainable Development Goal 17 which is Partnership for the SDGs and we look forward to sharing ways in which this first visit to the commission would result in us making more impact to our beneficiaries and to the society at large.

Everybody is born free and equal.

30 DAYS OF HOPE CAMPAIGN

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“A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones.” 

Nelson Mandela

Hi guys,

Many people have reached out to us asking how they can be part of the great work we are doing albeit remotely.

Today we  introduce an opportunity for everyone to be part of the work we do through the 30 days of hope campaign which  raises awareness about the plight of people living behind bars across various correctional facilities in Nigeria. We would also use this period to inform the public about  relevant innovations in the newly enacted Corrections Act 2019.

To participate, share with us a short story about a time when you visited a correctional facility in  Nigeria or your perception  about correctional facilities in Nigeria generally.

Send your story with your name and picture to letstalk@hopebehindbarsafrica.org or via whatsapp to Yemisi-08160018800.

Together we will shine the light in the darkest places.

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