The world needs more defenders of justice—as long as it’s moral justice and not today’s idea of legal justice, which is neither legal (e.g., false testimony by cops) nor just (e.g., the rich can buy justice).
My wife and I have been 60 Minutes fans from the beginning. On Sunday evening, we watched the fifteen-minute segment “Justice Defenders.” It was a winner!
In 2004, a young man named Alexander McLean volunteered at a hospital in Uganda, where he saw prison inmates chained to their beds with no opportunity for sanitation or proper medical care. Then McLean visited the prison and decided to renovate its infirmary with his own money. He asked the inmates what their greatest need was. They responded, “Education.” McLean returned to the United Kingdom, where he raised funds to upgrade the healthcare and collected books to provide educational material to prisons in Uganda.
Soft-spoken McLean, an attorney, then started visiting prisons in Kenya, Uganda, and the Gambia. He has visited fifty-five prisons and has provided legal training to hundreds of inmates, who then have the knowledge and skills to help their fellow inmates, whether innocent or guilty, to have a fair hearing in the courts. He is still working in cooperation with the University of London to provide the necessary coursework that allows the inmates to learn to be attorneys as well as paralegals. The training must be excellent because 91 percent of those inmates taking the examinations pass on their first attempt. This approach has allowed many prisoners either to be released or to receive a fair sentencing for their alleged crimes.
This news story also had another interesting takeaway. A few of the guards in these prisons also took the courses so they could help the prisoners receive justice. I suspect in our country our prison guards would be against such an opportunity because they would be afraid they might lose their jobs or even be sued for their bad behavior toward the inmates.
When I worked with gangs here in Southern California, I had an opportunity to place some of the younger ones into an Olympic boxing and wrestling training facility. The police soon confronted me and said that I was training these gang members to beat them up. They never answered my question, “Do you deserve to be beat up?”
I am thoroughly convinced that by giving inmates in all our prisons an opportunity to receive a first-class education, the revolving prison doors would end. Presently, our system is designed to dehumanize inmates, force them to live in subhuman cages, and feed them terrible food, and then we wonder why the same prisoners keep returning.
Why do I feel that following the Justice Defenders model would put an immediate halt to police brutality and close down the unjust justice system? Above all, it could put the private for-profit prisons fiasco to bed forever. Our current system is a disgrace to justice!
Peace Love Joy Hope
Photo by Colin Lloyd on Unsplash