Simonia Mashangoane speaks at the Courts and Case Flow Management Conference

Simonia Mashangoane speaks at the Courts and Case Flow Management Conference

Advocacy work around the rights of inmates and issues that affect the criminal justice system and correctional services is a core part of our work which has emerged from the topics covered by the investigative journalists. Until now our advocacy has been mainly through direct inmate support and advocating for the better treatment of prisoners and conditions in prison as well as highlighting administrative and procedural issues that are part of both the courts functioning and the judiciary.  Roundtable discussions over the last few years have brought together stakeholders to open up dialogue around these issues.

Building on that advocacy we are developing strategic partnerships that will drive change and public knowledge. Issues such as mandatory sentencing and sentencing reform, addressing the causes of wrongful convictions, enhancement of inmate rehabilitation programmes, understanding of procedural rights and protection, warders understanding of the scope human rights and mechanisms to hold correctional centres to minimum standards rules are topics that open up the dialogue as to what other aspects affect the overburdened system.

Advocacy is a collective civil society effort in which the Wits Justice Project and our strategic partners (both in our individual and joint capacities) work together in tackling grave issues such as torture and abuse, denial of procedural rights and holding our justice system and its component parts and people to account. The Wits Justice Project is a member of the Detention Justice Forum which is able to lobby at policy level on an array of issues and functions, conduct research, submit recommendations and hold our Government accountable to International Conventions, Covenants and laws. We strive to contribute to Human Rights Reports, both national and internationally, where we are able to give inmates and those affected by the criminal justice system a voice.

Our advocacy work also aims to better specific or technical parts of the justice system and we have hosted international researchers, forensic specialists and lawyers to support such efforts and utilise their expertise. There is a need for human rights researchers and journalists to exchange their knowledge and methods to develop enhanced ways of addressing injustices and developing best practice. We hope this to become a regional initiative.

Strategic and Advisory Partners of the WJP include; Just Detention International, Sonke Gender Justice, NICRO, Civil Society Prison Reform initiative, Lawyers for Human Rights, SERI, LRC, CALS, Section 27, ISS, Legal Aid South Africa, Amnesty International, other educational institutions, court magistrates , attorneys and advocates.

In moving forward as part of public engagement we hope to use multi - media and Art as a part of Art for Justice Series to highlight the advocacy work and highlight the work of journalists.