Over half the people in Sierra Leone's prisons have not been convicted of a crime, but languish behind bars for months or years awaiting trial. AdvocAid offers holistic legal services for female detainees who are particularly vulnerable in this weak system. With your support, we will raise awareness about legal rights through popular media, and our paralegals and lawyers will provide some of the country's most marginalised women and girls with access to justice to ensure their rights are upheld.
In 2014, a third of the female inmates in Sierra Leone said they had never been to school, whilst 83% earned less than $1 a day. This mix of poverty and lack of education leads to women and girls coming into conflict with the law, admitting guilt inadvertently, or paying bribes because they do not understand their rights. Only a minority can afford a lawyer, young girls are rarely treated differently from adults, and reasons behind crimes are rarely taken into account in the legal process.
AdvocAid wants to ensure that no woman goes through trial without representation, that corruption in the legal system is reduced, and that complaints are handled efficiently. We therefore provide free legal aid to women and girls in conflict with the law. Our lawyers represent women at court, whilst our paralegals assist and advise them from the time of arrest until the case is closed. We also provide legal education for women in detention and raise public awareness about legal rights.
In 2016, our paralegals assisted four women and girls every day! Only 45 percent of the cases were charged to court, where more than half were released, granted bail or got low sentences. AdvocAid helps ensure that minor offenses are settled quickly so that female detainees can return to their families and jobs instead of wasting away behind bars. We hold the police and judiciary accountable, and teach women and the public about legal rights so they can avoid coming into conflict with the law.