By Myra Wairimu
Frederick Douglass once said, “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”
One of Crime Si Poa’s core missions is to promote equal access to justice for all. It is central to the establishment of safer-crime-free communities because justice enables people to live in security, knowing that they will be protected and treated fairly by the law.
The day-to-day reality of “promoting access to justice,” is a little more nuanced and entails numerous parts.
We focus on ensuring that all communities, especially those underserved, also enjoy their right to access legal education and legal aid services, that justice is not delayed, and that there is a smooth reintegration of return citizens into the community.
To qualify that a community is indeed in equilibrium, these four factors should exist:
First, there must be fairness in the processes used to resolve disputes, this is defined as procedural justice. Provision of Legal Aid Services and Education are two of the main ways in which communities are empowered to reach procedural justice. Citizens require knowledge of their rights and responsibilities in order to exercise full benefits under the law.
They also need to be well informed on processes to follow in the event of a conflict with the law. One of the ways third parties can be of aid is by facilitating legal awareness programs.
For Example, through Crime Si Poa’s legal awareness project, Sheria Mashinani, we have been able to collaborate with various law enforcement agencies to invest in Community Dialogue forums where we enlighten the local mwananchi on the laws that govern him.
The second aspect, which also has to do with procedural justice; is to certify that the community actually has access to the relevant institutions. It involves ensuring that legal aid services are available, accessible, and affordable.
Practically, this would look like training paralegals within the community to bring legal services closer to the people, establishing community-based legal centers, and assigning pro bono lawyers to the different communities.
A third factor in promoting equal access to justice is fast-tracking the justice system and seeing to it that cases are dealt with expeditiously. After all, justice delayed is justice denied.
In scenarios where this poses a challenge, pressure should be placed on the courts to deal with cases in a timely manner to avoid prolonged trauma to both the victim and their family or the offender.
Finally, true justice cannot be achieved if offenders are unable to come back and make meaningful contributions to society. It is crucial that return citizens can easily reintegrate in order to curb the chances of recidivism, which would defeat the whole purpose of the entire justice system.
Crime Si Poa seeks to make access to justice a reality. We partner with various organizations and individuals to support the reformation, transformation, and reintegration process of past offenders.
We perform this through our Prisons Outreach, Phoenix project, and Social Enterprise Program which concentrate on helping return citizens get back on their feet by equipping them with skills for a second chance in the outside world.