Summer Awareness Campaigns
International Bridges to Justice’s India Country Program (IBJ India) strives to create a just society empowered to protect human rights. To this end, legal rights awareness campaigns are a central part of our work. Only those who understand their rights can protect their humanity. In India, much of the population remains unaware of their legal rights and how to access counsel. To educate those in need, IBJ India conducts monthly prison legal awareness events to promote a basic understanding of the rights of inmates, prison standards, and legal aid.
From June 2nd to June 11th, 2018, IBJ India visited eight prisons in the Tihar and Rohini Jail Complexes to work with inmates and facilitate a Legal Rights Awareness and Legal Aid Camp. The camp worked with over 1,500 jail inmates. These sessions aimed to educate inmates about their rights and duties within the prison. In particular, IBJ India volunteer lawyers and staff taught inmates how to access free legal counsel, how to file for bail, and the role of legal aid in a just society. Prisoners, administrators, and the IBJ India team worked together to develop an interactive and practical program. A diverse set of activities, trainings, and other educational services created a worthwhile experience for the inmates. Presented in a substantive, yet concise, manner, these lessons were crafted such that people of any educational background could understand them.
IBJ India returned to conduct awareness campaigns in 2019. Using the previous year’s efforts as a foundation, IBJ India tested creative new ways of providing legal awareness to those without literacy. Seeking to bridge the gap between informative workshops and engaging storytelling, IBJ staff put on a skit depicting potential pitfalls in the criminal justice system. This engaging, relatable content resonated with inmates and may allow them to better apply the knowledge they gain from awareness campaigns.
Awareness campaigns are crucial to reduce the stigma surrounding legal aid in India. While Indian lawyers are not supposed to accept compensation in legal aid cases, some nonetheless demand payment. This unfair practice engenders distrust toward providers of legal aid among those most in need of counsel. Inmates ought to have confidence in those representing them. Awareness campaigns and training sessions seek to dispel myths surrounding sarkari lawyers, who are assigned by the government to work on legal aid cases. Empowering inmates to report corrupt lawyers builds trust in legal aid and prevents instances of malpractice. IBJ India’s direct interaction with prisoners rebuilds lost trust and instills confidence that justice can be achieved. By fighting corruption in the legal profession, IBJ India is doing its part to advance both its own work and the work of advocates across the country.
IBJ India continues to innovate new ways to deliver on its mission to protect human rights, including through its Legal Rights Awareness and Legal Aid Camp. This sustainable model for awareness campaigns can be used at other jails across the country. Teaching prisoners to leverage their rights will allow them to improve their circumstances and receive humane treatment. IBJ India’s commitment to human rights through legal education and service truly makes a difference in the lives of those most in need.