With ambitious plans for world’s first prison-based law college
This month African Prison Project marks 10 years dedicated to serving the most vulnerable in African prisons. Having begun its work in East Africa, APP looks ahead to its next chapter as it seeks to develop the world’s first prison-based law college there. “Our dream is of a world where the law serves and protects us all”.
APP exists to bring dignity, hope and justice to prison communities in Africa and beyond. It began by providing healthcare and education services after Alexander’s experience of a Ugandan prison during his gap year. Returning with funds raised in the UK, he founded the charity as a student studying Law at Nottingham University, to improve conditions for prisoners and prison staff, and became one of TIME magazine’s 30 Under 30 Changing the World.
Since then APP’s healthcare model has been implemented by the Ugandan government. It has renovated clinics, built libraries and developed educational programs in prisons throughout Uganda, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
Alexander has visited over 130 prisons in more than 15 countries - from America to Zimbabwe. “I saw that prisons are filled with poor people, who’ve often had limited access to quality legal services. We’ve been asking ourselves, would the world be different if those who’ve experienced conflict with the law became lawyers? How would it be if the poor accessed the same quality of legal services as the rich? Would our prisons be less full? Would our nations be more just? Now, we train prisoners and prison staff to become lawyers.”
APP partner with the University of London to support more than 60 prisoners and prison staff studying law via their International Programme, just as Nelson Mandela once did. From legal education and leadership development among prisoners and prison staff, APP is committed to empowering a community of individuals - their changemakers - who can use the law to persistently pursue justice.
“Anyone can be a changemaker; from Pete the former death-row prisoner who received a standing ovation after his TEDGlobal talk this year, to those who support our work with their time, energy and resources. Our mission is to develop this global community of 'changemakers' who will relentlessly advocate for justice and equality.” says Alexander McLean.
APP has also gained great support from key institutions, such as Nottingham University, who supported Alexander through his journey as a Law undergraduate to his graduating year.
Looking ahead to the next ten years, Alexander has described APP’s exciting and ambitious plans, “We look forward to being instrumental in assembling world-class law teachers and practitioners to aid the training and development of transforming communities in Africa and beyond, by establishing the first prison-based law firm, offering legal education and legal services globally.”
APP’s vision to see prisons become places of positive transformation is shared with their staff, partners and graduates.
“We’ve experienced many challenges along the way, but much joy and encouragement too. We’re so proud of the accomplishments of all those we have been working with over the past 10 years who have chosen not to let their past define their future”, said Alexander McLean.
NOTES TO EDITORS
Around the world, prisons are under-resourced and overcrowded, some operating at 300% capacity, with many prisoners still awaiting trial. Prisons are filled with the poor and vulnerable, who often have limited access to quality legal services.
APP currently works in 27 prisons across East Africa transforming the lives of prisoners through our education and leadership programmes, providing innovative learning models in challenging environments. Our vision is to see prisons in Africa become places of positive transformation which base their approach on human rights and rehabilitation. By helping those we serve to realise their rights we work to empower them to become changemakers themselves.
APP’s education services have been profiled in Al-Jezeera’s Rebel Education series
APP’s vision for a prison-based law college has been presented in PBS’s Brief But Spectacular series