Bail Projects & Pre-Trial Detention
The overuse of pre-trial detention is a massive problem around the world. There are literally millions of people, including children, languishing in police and prison cells unnecessarily - often in appalling conditions. Many of these people have committed only minor crimes (if any) but due to ineffective or non-existent legal aid systems, a serious shortage of legal aid lawyers and poorly-trained and over-stretched police officers and magistrates, they have little prospect of getting bail. The problem is compounded by long delays in the criminal justice process which has led to serious overcrowding in many prisons.
Bail is a basic human 'right' not a privilege. Bail projects focus specifically on initiatives to improve the success of bail applications so that pre-trial detainees are released from police stations or prisons quickly. And speed is important - it is well known that 'remanders' often face the worst conditions of all in prison - far worse than convicted prisoners who gain right and privileges etc - despite the fact that they've not yet been tried and may be completely innocent. Due to the shortage of lawyers, bail projects increasingly use trained paralegals to educate and 'empower' suspects to better enforce their bail rights.
The underuse of bail is, of course, a small piece of a much larger 'access to justice' problem which inevitably, in the longer term, requires more fundamental structural reform of legal aid, police and penal systems. But, in the meantime, bail projects offer practical, focussed and achievable initiatives in this area.
For further background information on pre-trial detention I would recommend Presumption of Guilt: The Global Overuse of Pre-Trial Detention by the Open Society Foundations Justice Initiative
For a good example of a working bail project I would suggest The Malawi Bail Project