Alex Dimba and Isaac Kimaru - Two Prison Students Empowered by the Law
“Justice is not meant only for those with money - it should be given to everyone”
Our Justice Changemaker Programme Provides A Legal Education
During last month, our law students - prisoners and prison officers, across Kenya and Uganda - have been taking their exams as part of their University of London studies to gain a bachelor of law degree [LLB]. Our Justice Changemaker Programme supports students to obtain a world-class legal education from behind bars.
Becoming a Lawyer Under a Death Sentence
Alex is currently serving a life sentence at Naivasha Maximum Prison, in Kenya after his death sentence was commuted to life. Alex is also an APP graduate law student with the University of London (UoL). He completed his studies in 2018.
In 2006 Alex had attended Egerton University, one of Kenya’s oldest educational institutions, and graduated with a first class Bachelor of Science Degree in Agricultural Economics. He then enrolled in post-graduate studies at the same university. But at the beginning of the second semester in early 2008 his girlfriend was found murdered in a restaurant and he was arrested, charged and sentenced to death.
“It was painful to attend the court trial with an incompetent advocate whose only interest was soliciting money from my family”, reflects Alex. “So when APP came into Naivasha Prison in 2014 and introduced the legal studies that they would be offering through the University of London, I was among the first to join the programme.”
After 3 years of studying, Alex has completed his bachelor of law degree via the UoL’s distance learning programme. “Now with the knowledge I have, I am able to draft legal documents both for my colleagues and myself in the courts - all this from prison.”
A Learning Experience Leads to Hope
Isaac is 33 year of age and has been in Kamiti Prison for 8.5 years. His experience of being behind bars has solicited mixed reactions both from his family, and himself. “At first it was very horrifying [but] it has been a learning experience. [Being part of the APP programme] has transformed my life from hopeless and empty to becoming someone who is looking forward to a future that is promising.”
He joined the APP programme in 2014 and last year graduated with his degree from the University of London.
“When I encountered APP I felt a sense of belonging and the dark cloud that had been hanging around me disappeared. Since my inception, my priorities have changed for the better. I have gotten to understand through the experience and skills that I have acquired, that justice is not meant only for those with money - it should be given to everyone - but it is quite difficult for people in our country to get the help they require.”
When asked about the impact of his legal studies and the sharing of legal advice and support, Isaac would say, “The impact has definitely been felt and is being passed on to the inmates. This is seen as many inmates who beforehand did not understand their rights can now stand up for themselves.”
From his childhood, Isaac had always dreamt of becoming a lawyer. Looking towards the future, he hopes to join the Kenya School of Law and get admitted to the bar. “I want to represent people in court and be a servant to the community. I have been given my LLB freely and don’t mind giving back.”
Providing Legal Support
The 2019 Justice Taskforce Report estimates that a quarter of a billion people live in extreme conditions of injustice, deprived of any meaningful legal protections. In total, more than 5 billion people are deprived of justice. They call this the global justice gap.
APP works with prisoners, prison staff and the judiciary taking a holistic approach to the justice system. Empowering individuals, rather than simply speaking on their behalf, is a vital element of what we do and how we believe a system can be changed.
Through our Justice Changemaker Programme we are providing a legal education, as well as legal awareness and services, to provide access to justice for those who need it most. Find out how you can become a changemaker too.