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Sudreau Global Justice Institute Year in Review 2022

The Sudreau Global Justice Institute (SGJI) is a human rights organization based out of the Pepperdine Caruso School of Law working to make access to justice a reality for all people, everywhere. Whether it's for a victim, the accused, or an entire community, establishing justice changes everything. SGJI works to accomplish this vision by partnering with governments around the world to implement equitable laws and systems, and by training the next generations of lawyers to be globally minded advocates for change.

The institute's scope of work includes, but is not limited to, plea bargaining implementation, the development of criminal public defense services, exchange programs, prison decongestion exercises, pro bono training, externship programs, development of mediation and alternative dispute resolution, creation of sentencing guidelines, case management, and data collection. Caruso Law students have a unique opportunity to participate in internships as judicial clerks at the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of Ghana and Uganda during the summer after their first year of law school.

In their latest Prison Project, the SGJI team of lawyers spoke with 363 accused people on pre-trial detention, providing access to justice to one-fourth of the prison. 

Of those 363 people that SGJI’s lawyers spoke with, 88 entered into a plea bargaining agreement, meaning 7.3% of the prison is no longer languishing in arbitrary pre-trial detention. Additionally, 37 people had their cases dismissed altogether because the lawyers were able to demonstrate that there was insufficient evidence to sustain a criminal charge. 

Uganda is home to the sixth most overcrowded prison system in the world, with a rate reaching 293.2% of their official prison capacity (World Prison Brief).

Cameron McCollum, director of SGJI, emphasized how the institute seeks out victims of injustice and works to advocate on their behalf:

“While we spend a lot of time and energy engineering creative solutions to the underlying causes of systemic injustice, we never want to lose focus on the victim, the one who is in desperate need of an advocate.”

The institute is known around the world for leading justice-sector development. In April 2022, the namesake of the institute, Laure Sudreau, gave an additional two-million-dollar donation to help advance SGJI’s rule of law initiatives around the world. 

Thanks to the generosity of Sudreau and many others, McCollum says SGJI is “able to provide these services free of charge” in participating countries.

On October 6, 2021, the institute signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Lagos State Ministry of Justice in Lagos, Nigeria, one of the most influential municipalities in Africa. McCollum says the institute is “thrilled to partner with incredible leaders to further their goals of creating a more just society.”

On June 28, 2022, after an almost 3-year effort in the country during the pandemic, the institute, together with the Ghana Ministry of Justice, the U.S. State and Justice Departments, and local stakeholders, partnered in the drafting and passage of legislation establishing plea bargaining in Ghana for the first time. 

The institute has been asked by Ghana’s Chief Justice and Attorney General's Office to take a leadership role in the requisite training for pilot projects with those in pre-trial detention across the nation.

The institute’s director for West Africa, Alan Collier says, "The next step will be to not only train judges and advocates on both sides of the aisle in the effective use of plea bargaining but to begin implementing it in practice with remandees in prisons across all regions of Ghana through the institute's West Africa Justice Center in partnership with the newly developing Public Defender Division of Legal Aid. This is not only a monumental step for Ghana and justice for its citizens but a model for all of West Africa."

On August 10, 2022, the institute officially signed an MOU with the Judiciary of Rwanda. The MOU aims at strengthening the capacity of institutions in the criminal justice chain to prosecute and adjudicate criminal cases. 

The institute will work with the Judiciary of Rwanda to establish a collaborative relationship in areas of criminal justice reform with regard to implementation of a project that includes, but is not limited to, capacity building, exchange programs, trainings, externship programs, alternative dispute resolution, court case management, plea bargaining, public defense and access to justice for the indigent, prisoner justice, and reduction in inmates awaiting trial.

The institute plans to return to Uganda, Rwanda, and Ghana in early October 2022. This trip will involve the further development of key relationships and initiatives in these three countries, including conducting a plea bargaining symposium and SGJI’s first ever prison project in Rwanda. In all of its work, SGJI will continue to strengthen justice systems, defend the defenseless, and train the next generation.

Be sure to stay involved by following the @GlobalJusticeInstitute on all platforms.