The Queen's Commonwealth
Trust Partners with APP 

Alexander McLean 

I am a son of the Commonwealth by birth and association. I am British and Jamaican and the founder of the African Prisons Project. I am delighted that our work is supported by the newly formed Queen's Commonwealth Trust. 

We are a community of prisoners, prison warders, lawyers and allies. We are working to establish the world's first prison based law college and law firm. More than 60 of our members are studying for University of London law degrees by correspondence from various prisons. 

We come from vastly different backgrounds, but we believe we can each play a role in upholding the rule of law and ensuring that the most vulnerable people have a chance of having their case dealt with fairly in court. 

As a result of our work providing quality legal services to those who wouldn't otherwise receive them, we expect to see more than 3000 people released from prison in 2018 by the courts. 

We also work to overturn unjust laws and support ex prisoners to move into positions where they shape and implement the law. Because of our different backgrounds, we are expected to hate each other. Instead, we try to grow in love for each other as a community of reconciliation and courageous changemakers. 

We are a young family of Commonwealth citizens. People like Susan Kigula, our first female law student, who studied for her University of London law degree from death row in Uganda. She was sentenced to death at the age of 21 for a crime she denied committing. From her cell, she led a case which resulted in the abolition of the mandatory death sentence in Uganda. Susan and hundreds of others had their death sentences commuted. 

Susan has now been released from prison and is preparing to study for the Bar. 

Our paralegal Kamande, an inmate at a women's prison in Kenya, was suicidal upon being imprisoned. Now she reports having a great sense of purpose in using her legal knowledge and education to help her fellow inmates access justice. 

Moses, our first law degree graduate, has gone from being a prisoner to a lawyer in the army. Susan, Kamande, Moses and their peers in our community play a part in the realisation of Commonwealth values by helping thousands of people each year access quality legal services. 

For me, the defining feature of the Commonwealth is the common law and respect or the rule of law. It's the idea that regardless of our status, each of us should be protected by the law as well as answerable to it. I see the Commonwealth as a diverse family with a rich shared history, and a compelling force for good. I am proud that the African Prisons Project is playing a role in the realisation of these shared ideals. 

We work to become a part of a new generation of servant leaders who,  motivated by our first hand experience of the law in action, move to the margins of society to uphold the values of justice and fairness upon which the Commonwealth is founded.

You can listen to Alexander McLean share his essay on BBC Radio 4, recorded on the Wednesday 27 December 2017