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Soroti Women Prison entrance

Prison Project

Twice a year we partner with the Ugandan Judiciary to host hands-on plea bargaining training inside Uganda's prisons, and refer to these trainings as Prison Projects. These are intense one-week programs that include our Global Justice team, volunteer American attorneys and judges, Pepperdine law students, Ugandan attorneys, Ugandan law students, Uganda prosecutors, and Ugandan judges. We travel between 1-4 different prisons during that week and train Ugandans on the plea bargaining process, while handling real cases. Check out the clip from our REMAND documentary below to catch a glimpse of this project in action. 

 

 


The Prison Project

The most extensive project undertaken with our friends in Uganda is the implementation of plea bargaining. Just a few years ago, every criminal case in Uganda was required to be resolved through trial. The Judiciary was and remains understaffed. Both the guilty and the innocent wait years to get their day in court. Pursuant to our MOU with Uganda's Justice, Law, and Order Sector, Pepperdine has hosted over well over 50 Ugandan Judicial Officers for study tours on plea bargaining, case management, and mediation. Twice a year, our team of students and volunteers travels to Uganda to assist with the prison projects and a one-day national conference on plea bargaining with all the key leaders in the justice system. 

The project typically takes place in 2-3 different prisons over the course of four or five days. In the prisons, we set up teams around the courtyard. A team consists of an American attorney, Ugandan attorney, one or two Ugandan law students, and one or two Pepperdine law students. Prior to our arrival, a prison official collects the names of the accused interested in negotiating a plea deal, from there, the prosecutions office finds their file and brings them to the prisons on the day of the project. Each team looks over a case, conducts an interview with the accused, and negotiates a plea deal with the prosecution. Not all cases are resolved during this project. In addition to training the Ugandan attorneys and law students in plea bargaining, this process heavily relies on educating the prisoners about plea bargaining, talking them through realistic expectations of sentences for their crimes, and ensuring the system is consistent and reliable.

 


The Goal

While we have plea bargained well over 1,000 cases during our prison projects, Uganda has now plea bargained well over 10,000 cases on their own. Our goal is that as we walk alongside the Ugandans implementing this system, we will reach a point where our training and counsel is no longer needed on plea bargaining. We are excited to be nearing that point in Uganda on this project, but we remain engaged in other legal reform projects with the judiciary as a result of our deepening friendship over the years.

 


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