Commonwealth Day: Our Connection

Commonwealth Day: Our Connection

People across every continent will observe Commonwealth Day today (11th March). The Commonwealth consists of 53 countries whose combined population amounts to 2.4 billion people, almost a third of the world population.

The theme for 2019 is ‘A Connected Commonwealth’, which offers opportunities for individuals and organisations across the world to connect and work together “through far-reaching and deep-rooted networks of friendship and goodwill”.

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Prisons across the Commonwealth

We work in two Commonwealth countries - Kenya and Uganda, where prisons are overcrowded and under-resourced - with the support of two organisations The Commonwealth Scholarship Commission and The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.

In Kenya the prison population is at 200% and in Uganda it’s 3 times its official designated occupancy level. Overcrowding arises because many people have no access to legal advice or representation and the system cannot cope with the number of cases needing to be heard. Because of this men and women will wait in prison for many years before having an opportunity to give evidence in their defence or offer a plea bargain, navigating a congested justice system alone.  

Time for Change

We believe that prisoners and prison staff should play a vital role in justice reform. We work alongside men and women who choose each day to use their lives, and the resources they have, to help others. Although their circumstances are challenging, many are committed to making the most of this opportunity.

They are the ones who can ensure justice is accessible for all because they have experienced the challenges of the justice system for themselves. Through our work and partnerships, they are becoming leaders in their communities, empowered and enabled to work for change where it’s needed most.

Find out how you can support us in this work.

The Commonwealth Scholarship Commission

APP has been working with the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission (CSC) since 2014. Equipping senior leaders with formal education and legal training helps to ensure that prisoners’ rights are upheld. Our Justice Changemaker Journey Programme (JCJ Programme) rigorously selects and develops prison staff who have a track record of excellence, with training, networking and leadership skills to become changemakers in penal reform. Through this, we aim to establish new models of imprisonment by equipping changemakers amongst Africa’s criminal justice personnel to more effectively serve their communities and nations.

We have been pursuing these changes in partnership with CSC. With their funding APP facilitates learning journeys for African criminal justice staff to spend time in the UK learning from the experience of British criminal justice agencies. Those who have the opportunity to come to the UK on secondment benefit from the time away from their home departments to reflect on how they will contribute to systemic change.

A Year of Achievement

2018 was a prolific year for our JCJ Programme. APP supported a total of six Kenyan prison leaders for two UK learning journeys, during which they learnt about the British criminal justice system.

To date, APP's partnership with the CSC has enabled 24 talented prison officers (5 from Uganda and 19 from Kenya) to receive important exposure experiences in British institutions. Despite the challenges to change in a highly bureaucratic environment, with limited resources, some of the 2018 alumni secondees have already demonstrated significant achievements. Find out more

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The Commonwealth Professional Fellowship

This year, we are proud to announce that another 5 fellows have been selected by APP and the CSC for the 2019 round of Commonwealth Professional Fellowships. They will join us in the UK from May 13th to August 4th 2019.

For the first time, APP will host a cohort of various criminal justice actors coming from different African countries, including 1 Magistrate from Uganda (Nasaru Magomu), 1 Judge and Examining Magistrate from Cameroon (Daniel Duplex Nde Tawembe), 2 Senior Prison Governors from Kenya (Fairbain Ombeva, Gerald Gichunge Rintaugu) and 1 Assistant Director of Probation (Dorothy Mutemi) again from Kenya.

We are excited to welcome this new team of justice changemakers and look forward to the many learning opportunities this unprecedented experience will open up for the CSC, for APP and all our stakeholders.

The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust

In December 2017 Alexander McLean our Founder, was interviewed on BBC Radio 4, about APP’s work supported by The Queen's Commonwealth Trust.

We are proud of our partnership with the African Prisons Project who demonstrate what it looks like to bring transformation to some of the world's most challenging places. African Prisons Project work with those on the margins of society providing legal empowerment behind bars. Our shared commitment to support young people as changemakers is turning people in prison into paralegals, restoring dignity and hope, and ensuring justice for all.”

QCT uses its network and experience to empower young leaders across the Commonwealth and APP has benefited greatly from this partnership. Last year Nicola Hartnell - CEO of QCT - joined us in Uganda to celebrate the opening of the Youth Centre at Luzira’s Maximum Security Prison. Altogether the Prison complex hosts five Maximum Security Units (including Women) as well as the Prison Officer’s barracks. Together it houses up to 7,000 inmates and 1,000 Prison Officers and their families. The surrounding suburb of Luzira has a population of approximately 30, 000 and the APP-Luzira Youth Centre will also serve the youth community beyond the prison walls.

Find out more about our partnership with QCT.

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A Significant Milestone

2019 also marks the 70th anniversary of the Commonwealth as it is configured today, with old ties and new links enabling co-operation towards social, political and economic development, which is both inclusive and sustainable.

APP wants to play its part in raising awareness of the conditions faced by the Commonwealth prison population - especially in light of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 16) to “promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all.”

As a charity, APP began by working to improve prison conditions, but it became apparent that prisoners - and prison staff - needed more than a change in conditions. We believe that prisons can be places of positive transformation, where those within the prison walls are equipped to use the law to bring justice. So we provide legal education and training to empower those who cannot afford a lawyer, to practice the law for themselves.

We celebrated our 10th Anniversary last year and this year will see more than 12 prison students graduate from the University of London with a Bachelor's Degree in Law [LLB]. Our paralegals and legal awareness sessions are reaching 1000’s, and in both Kenya and Uganda we are working to see systematic change in the way justice is administered. Through these changemakers APP are creating a model for justice reform which could be seen throughout the Commonwealth.

Will you support us to unlock justice today?