Student Perspective

An Unforgettable Summer – Zeeshan Iqbal

In order to protect the identity and privacy of the inmates of the prisons, employees of UP Zambia, and inters of UP Zambia, I will be using pseudonyms to refer to people. None of the names used in this post are true and correct. 

This has been an unforgettable summer for me personally. Although there were plenty of rough patches and frustrating nights, I can honestly say, this was one of the best experiences of my life. I wanted to take this time to talk about some of my experiences working with UP Zambia.

As I look back at my time in Zambia, there are several moments that stand out. Although the interns and employees of UP Zambia were great, what really comes to mind is all the experiences I had with the kids and adults in the prisons. I was actually able to develop a pretty good connection with a few different people. There was one particular inmate in Lusaka Central (LC) that I thought I really bonded with (let’s call him Eminem). The reason I call him Eminem is because he was actually a really great rapper. In fact while I was in the prison, he shared with me a few songs that he recorded himself. I can actually remember one occasion where he and I tried to make a song up on the spot while waiting to interview a different inmate. Although UP Zambia was not able to help Eminem (he had his own lawyer), he was still more than willing to help members of UP Zambia. Eminem did everything from finding particular inmates that we were looking for to helping with the language gap.

“Bars Behind Bars (Freestyle)” – Recorded July 2019

The language gap is something I did find a little difficult to get around. If it wasn’t for inmates like Eminem, it would have been really difficult to communicate with several of the inmates since I didn’t always have a Zambian intern with me. While Eminem was my LC translator, Jordan was his counterpart in Kamwala. Just like Eminem, Jordan had his own legal counsel so UP Zambia could not help him. That being said, he was still more than willing to help UP Zambia. Since I worked primarily at Kamwala, I interacted a lot more with Jordan than I did with Eminem. Jordan and I actually used to work out together in Kamwala. Although there wasn’t exactly state of the art gym equipment in the prison, the prisons did make do with what they had. At first I thought this was kind of odd but I soon realized that things like this make-shift gym were necessary. I gave the prisoners something to do. During my last day, Jordan and I actually ended up doing a sort of competition where we went through a kind of training circuit.

Student Perspective

Bars Behind Bars – Shannon Black

“They might lock me up, but they can’t lock my mind up
They can’t lock my mind up
They can’t lock my mind up
‘cause I’m still gonna be spittin’ those
Bars behind bars
Bars behind bars”

“Bars Behind Bars (Freestyle)” – Recorded July 2019

While the UP Zambia team spends weekdays in prison providing legal advice and case updates to the juveniles, Saturdays in prison look quite different. Each Saturday we arrived at Kamwala Remand Prison with games, pockets full of candy, and, most importantly, a giant speaker and microphone. All morning, the juveniles would take turns rapping, and we would dance alongside them to songs they loved. 

The UP Zambia team at Kamwala Remand

It wasn’t unusual for me to ask the juveniles or my friends at UP Zambia the names of songs as they played. Zambian music is upbeat and expressive, and I’d quickly grown to love not only the sound, but the way it brings people together. One Saturday, as a new song played across the courtyard, I asked a group of juveniles who the artist was. One boy winked and pointed at himself. I laughed and rolled my eyes. You see, I thought he was kidding.

But as I listened, I quickly realized the voice rapping over the speaker was the same voice I knew belonged to the juvenile in front of me. His lyrics spoke of hope and resilience, and a chorus of his friends’ voices surrounded his words. It wasn’t just a catchy beat; emotion and depth resounded throughout.

Many of the juveniles at Lusaka Central and Kamwala Remand have been in prison for years without even beginning to serve a sentence. For some, their case has been reviewed, but they still await a judgment or confirmation. For others, their trial has been adjourned repeatedly because a witness for the prosecution failed to appear in court – again.  At Kamwala, many of the juveniles are brought to prison for minor theft charges.  Instead of being with their families and progressing in school, the boys spend their days in overcrowded spaces without adequate clothing or hygiene. They face sleepless nights and growling stomachs. Their youth is stolen from them as prison becomes their reality.

For the juveniles, music is their sacred outlet. It’s how they share their story and navigate their emotions. During my days with them in prison, I heard raps recorded onto .mp3, listened to freestyles sung into a microphone, and read pages upon pages of lyrics written in worn-out notebooks.

Their raps tell of the struggles they face each day, but they also speak of a steadfast reliance on God and hope for a future of freedom. They write often of the “real hell” they live in, but also at lengths about their dreams and plans for the future. While exhausted and hungry, they sing “Amani Kumbuka” or, “God never forgets about me.” They are resilient, creative, and brave – and their words reflect this.

Amani Kumbuka” – “God never forgets about me.” – Recorded July 2019

They are also thankful. They are thankful for the work that the incredible people at UP Zambia have done and continue to do for them. UP Zambia provides not only valuable legal advice and advocacy for juveniles in conflict with the law, but critical social and emotional support. For too many people in the justice system, these boys are just a name on a file, a number, a statistic. But to UP Zambia they are so much more – they are people with a future worth fighting for. They are boys who laugh, and dance, and have a depth beyond their years. They are boys who deserve a shoulder to cry on when it feels like they’ll never have their day in court, who deserve a friend to celebrate with when they learn they’ll finally be released. It is in these relationships that the work of UP Zambia proves truly invaluable.

A juvenile at Lusaka Central Correctional Facility wrote the following lyrics about the Lusaka Central Legal Desk team from UP Zambia. I think he puts into words the hope UP Zambia returns to these juveniles, simply because of their decision that these boys matter, that they have voices that deserve to be heard.

“This is my story at LCCF
a place where you find people sentenced to life in prison and death
A place where Jesus and Satan are found most
A place living like a dream but seeing a real ghost
Somewhere when just putting a smile on your face is a crime
Instead of thinking about thinking about your offense, you’re busy wasting time
Always found upset and seeking for revenge
But sometimes I find myself laughing just because of you friends
Okay, it’s not fake about the legal desk, you help me not to be at that risk
You put a smile on my face, I know I’m in a weird place
but you fill me with peace.”

Student Perspective

411 on the PI Team – Skyler Schoolfield

Ruth, Eve, and Skyler

UP Zambia primarily works with juveniles, but they also work with other vulnerable populations, such as prohibited immigrants. UP Zambia is the primary advocate for prohibited immigrants that have been detained by the Zambia Department of Immigration. Prohibited Immigrants (PI) are people who have been arrested for illegal entry, illegal stay, overstaying their visa, or leaving the camp without a gate pass (refugees only). Surprisingly, most of the PIs are legally in the country, and they often have their refugee papers, visa, and/or passport on them when they are arrested, yet they are arrested anyway.  The prohibited immigrant team works with the Commission of Refugees to get the arrested refugees sent back to their refugee camp, and they work with Immigration to organize the court appearances and deportation for the remaining prohibited immigrants.

The PI team consists of four members: Eve, Veronica, Yoram, and Fanny. Eve is the team leader. She primarily works in Lusaka Central Male; Veronica primarily works Lusaka Central Female; Yoram primarily works in Kamwala Remand, and Fanny does majority of the follow ups. During the month of June, three interns joined the PI team: Ruth from Northrise University, and Taylor and I from Baylor Law School.

In the morning, the PI team is at the prisons. The PI team interviews new clients, follows up with clients, and socializes with the clients to make sure that they feel they are not forgotten. The team rarely has time to breathe while they are there. Especially when there is a large intake of new PIs, which typically happens on Mondays. There are as many as 50 new PIs at a time. The very first day that I went to Lusaka Central we had 48 new PIs. The PI team member for that prison will interview and fill out the migrant form for every new migrant. This can take from 8:30 to 4 and there can still be migrants that need to be interviewed the following day.

The afternoons are spent either at the prisons finishing the work from the morning or spent following up with the immigration office, the commission of refugees, the International Organization for Migrants, or the embassies. UP Zambia has built relationships with the multiple government offices and aid organizations, and those relationships have greatly improved the lives and outcomes of their clients.

When I first arrived at the immigration office, I was shocked at how cooperative and friendly the immigration officers were. I was expecting backlash and pushback, but we were greeted by name and with (almost) open files. The officers seemed to actually care about what we had to say and were as frustrated as we were about the status of so many PIs. There was only one instance in which we did not experience such a relationship. Taylor, Ruth, and I went to the immigration office without an UP Zambia staff member. He greeted us, but once we got started with the meeting, he refused to continue talking to us. We still do not know why there was such a change in our interactions that day, but the situation was resolved by a simple letter the following week.

Back: Ruth and Veronica. Front: Skyler and Taylor

This team does more than provide legal assistance; they also provide friendship. Every time Eve or Veronica enter the female section, all of the PI ladies come running towards them. They talk, tell jokes, share food, and provide comfort. Frequently Yoram has 10 or more PIs surrounding him at Kamwala. This team cares about these migrants as people and as clients. This is why the team is so successful.

Student Perspective

A Prohibited Immigrant – Taylor Volesky

The last day that I went to Lusaka Central, a Prohibited Immigrant who had translated for me frequently, came up to me and told me that he and 10 other Congolese were being sent back to the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was so happy and thanked me over and over again. Knowing the work I did following up and just generally caring about their cases helped them made the entire time I spend in Zambia worth it. The cases were not practically difficult but the biggest issue was always following up with cases and making sure that immigration knew they were imprisoned.

The big issue we ran into when trying to follow up with cases was the Immigration officer deciding that he didn’t want to deal with us anymore and wouldn’t give us anymore information regarding our clients. We think a big reason for that was the fact that Eve, our boss and the one he normally deals with, was out the whole week. Sky and I took care of the interviews and follow-ups that week without her. A big problem that UP Zambia runs into is officials who want to help at certain times but then other times are unable to for various reasons.

A lot of the time Refugees would get stuck in the prison system. If we did not get their name and information to take to the Commission of Refugees or International Organization for Migration, then the refugee would pointlessly stay in prison for lack of funds to transport. A big issue was the Zambian government only deports people when they have enough people from one country that it is economically feasible to take all the prisoners back to their country.

Student Perspective

Difference Makers – Jessica Washington

Mpaso and I with pile of clothes: Mpaso and I sorting hoodies in preparation for the gift of warmth collection drive. UP Zambia will provide over 500 juveniles with a blanket and hoodie during the cold season.

On a quiet day at the office, I began rifling through the mound of donations, UP Zambia paperwork, activity supplies, and such that had accumulated in the corner of the office. While the purpose was organization and preparation of donations for the Gift of Warmth Collection Drive, I quickly became wrapped up in an unexpected box of artwork created by the incarcerated juveniles.

Baylor students in bus: Baylor Law interns preparing string and material for activities while on the way to Katonbora Reformatory School. The string was used to make bracelets with the juveniles, while the material was used for headbands during the sports games to identify team members.

In this box were paper plates painted with UP Zambia’s slogan “One Day Freedom.” There were paintings thanking UP Zambia for their work, and paintings with prayers to God for freedom and mercy. Letters were mounted on wood planks that chronicled a juvenile’s day in prison and prayers for release, that at one point hung in the UP Zambia office as a reminder of the juveniles they are serving. Gratitude for the work UP Zambia does for these juveniles overwhelmed me, and I felt crushing compassion for those boys who painted these beautiful prayers. They reminded me so much of those I spent my days with in the prisons.

Team picture: Lusaka Central Prison Team outside of Lusaka Central Prison after UP Zambia’s 5th birthday celebration.

And then my heart dropped. There in my hands was a painting dated about a year and half ago and signed with a name I recognized all too well from my time at Lusaka Central Prison. The weight of his time in prison sat on my shoulders in that moment as I considered all he has suffered at the hands of the justice system following his crime. Yet every day, when he greets me at the desk and I ask him how he is, he responds “I am blessed.” Three years of incarceration that will mean little when it comes to his sentencing. Three years of being 1 of 50 juveniles in a prison with a population of 2,000. Three years of insufferable living conditions and limited court appearances. Three years and no judgment yet. Yet he continues to pray and thank God for what little he does have, because through it all he is blessed.

Pile of blankets: Mainza and I at Katonbora Reformatory School preparing to hand out blankets to the juveniles.

I wish you too could read the prayers of these young men. I wish you could see past those prison doors, past the barbed wire that lines the concrete walls isolating the juveniles from the outside world. I wish you could meet them, shake their hand, see the humanity within them. I wish you too had the privilege of knowing these juveniles, their transgressions along with their hopes and dreams. Because I am blessed simply by having these juveniles in my life.

I truly believe rehabilitation requires a showing of love and kindness for these young men, and that box of artwork I found is a unique display of the love UP Zambia has for these juveniles. Leaving the juveniles at Lusaka Central Prison was extremely difficult and heart-breaking, but the artwork created over the past two to three years is a reminder that UP Zambia remains as a constant. Beyond legal services, UP Zambia is a source of love and kindness for these juveniles to make sure that they feel that when the world is against them, they have a team on their side. Thank you UP Zambia staff for the limitless support you provide the juveniles in all aspects of their lives. You are difference-makers throughout Zambia, and the juveniles and myself are truly blessed by each and every one of you. One day freedom!

Student Perspective

A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words – Ashley Shultz

Under Chapter 87, The Penal Code Act of The Laws of Zambia, it is a crime to take photos or videos of government buildings. That means that myself and the other Baylor law interns cannot take photographs of any court, correctional or remand facility.

One of us has tried. When caught taking a photo of the exterior of the Subordinate Court, the intern received a stern talking to. He then made the intern delete the photo of the exterior of the court in front of him.

Photos connect us. Photos can make someone feel what someone else feels in a distant location. A photo of a school shooting in a town we’ve never heard of thousands of miles away from the TV on which we watch the news story unfold can make us weep. Such a photo can evoke enough emotion to make us do something about it, whether it be talking about it with others, attending a vigil, or calling our Congressman or woman to urge them to pass stricter gun laws. This is why a picture is worth 1,000 words, right?

So I want to show you a photo of the outdoor space the 40 juveniles share at Kamwala Remand. Upon looking at the photo you might think to yourself that it’s not bigger than the size of your living and kitchen areas combined.

I want to show you a photo of the holding cells behind the Subordinate Court. I would point to the puddles on the floor and say, “That’s urine. The toilets have been broken for who knows how long.”

I want to show you a photo of where the juveniles sleep at Lusaka Central Correctional Facility. I would tell you that because Lusaka Central is three times over its capacity and as you can see the “room” is small, the juveniles sleep sitting upright, back to back.

But I also want to show you photos of the light Undikumbukire Project Zambia shines in these dark places upon these bright faces.

I want to show you a photo of Zebron on the day we gave him a new pair of bright red TOMS. The first and only thing you’d see is a smile from ear to ear. You’d soon realize that you too are smiling because his smile is that contagious.

I want to show you a photo of the coolest makeshift movie theater you ever did see. With donated mattresses for the juveniles blocking the openings in the walls of the “classroom” at Lusaka Central and popcorn in red and white striped popcorn containers, Black Panther played on the wall through a projector. The Zambian legal interns’ creativity made the first viewing of Black Panther, and likely the first movie for those boys unforgettable.

I want to show you a photo of the juveniles playing chess in a chess tournament we organized at Kabwe Correctional Facility upon some makeshift boards we painted for hours the night before. I would point to the boy in the green shirt and tell you he won the tournament, and that it was a huge feat considering all of the boys there play chess for an hour every night.

I want these photos to show you so that you’ll feel what we feel here: sadness and hope for these boys and girls. Moreover, I want these photos to create within you feelings strong enough to lead you to advocate for them alongside us. But for now, words will have to do.

Student Perspective

Parent Tracing 101 – Claire Mosley

A big part of the juvenile justice system here in Zambia requires the presence of the juvenile’s parents and/or legal guardian. When a juvenile’s case is called one of the first things the judge asks is whether the parent or legal guardian is present. With no parent or guardian present when called, there is no possibility of bail for the child or for the proceedings to commence. So, the juvenile goes back to the remand prison that holds over 1,000 inmates, even though it was designed to hold just 400.

This is where UP Zambia steps in, and where our first experience as interns “parent tracing” begins.

When I first heard the words “parent tracing” the task sounded like a cross between the times I had spent playing spies at recess in elementary school and gathering information on potential interviewees on Facebook and Linkedin at one of my past summer internships. The task sounded mysterious- yet exciting.

Our first stop in parent tracing was Kamwala Remand Prison. It turns out that the juvenile whose guardians we were trying to find had been in Kamwala for about 3 months with each of the juvenile’s hearings being adjourned because no guardian was able to be present. The juvenile still had not entered a plea. Like many kids, this juvenile’s case had been stifled by the ability to find his legal guardians.

Therefore, UP Zambia asked for a removal warrant. This is a warrant that allows UP Zambia to take the juvenile, along with a police officer, and a social worker, out of the prison and guided by the juvenile’s instructions find his home. Here are some helpful tips that we learned along the way and recommend for any future interns that find themselves tasked with “parent tracing.”

1)    Practice a couple of phrases in Nyanja.

Most of the children in the remand prisons will be able to understand and speak some English. However, the local language in Lusaka is Nyanja- and the further outside the city you get, the more likely you will be able to find the juvenile’s guardians if you know some Nyanja. While some of our group was riding in the car with the juvenile, they were able to get to know him better and to open up by practicing a couple of greetings we had learned in Nyanja.

Over the past two weeks, all it takes is a couple of Mzungus trying to speak Nyanja to crack a smile on a juvenile or adult’s face and end up being received warmly by the generous and friendly people here in Zambia.

By breaking the ice, on the drive to the juvenile’s house, the group of interns was able to speak genuinely with the juvenile to learn the particulars about the offence he was charged with, his current living conditions in Kamwala, and ultimately advise him about his options of a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty” and the various consequences.

 2)    A car with 4-wheel drive is a necessity.

Most of the children that end up in Kamwala are from compounds, or communities, in and around the outskirts of Lusaka. While the majority of roads inside the city of Lusaka are paved, when heading out to the compounds, you will find yourself on a dry, dusty, and rocky road. As we headed towards the outskirts of Lusaka following the child’s lead, it became clear that we brought the wrong car. Fortunately, it was only later in the week in a more populated area when we would get our first flat tire driving on these rocky roads.

As resilient as our fellow Zambian law interns are, one can only be as resilient as their car when parent tracing leads you to a small community in the bush. Luckily, this was not the first of many parent tracing missions that had led our fearless interns and drivers into these small communities outside of Lusaka and they were able to maneuver rocks, potholes, and people, like champions.

 3)    Wear CASUAL clothes.

When parent tracing it is essential that you wear very casual clothes. Not only will you find yourself in places where there are varying levels of poverty, but you may find yourself with orange toes and legs from the dust courtesy of the dry season if closed-toe shoes and pants are not worn. In addition, it is important to dress casually in order not to alarm the communities. It is common for police officers, or other enforcement officers to be dressed professionally.

It is important to remember that you are entering a community usually with instructions of the juvenile who may not know his or her actual address or have one. You may have to ask around for the parents or guardians of ________, and try to get the most accurate information as possible while being respectful of the sensitivity of the matter. Nor do you want to overwhelm the parents/guardian’s who may be worried, scared, or anxious if they don’t know that their child has been taken to Kamwala or if you are really there to help them.

 4)    Pack a light lunch

Parent tracing can take 30 minutes or it may take 4 hours. Our experience was the latter. Working with juveniles is tricky, especially if you are trying to help a child that has been separated from their parents remember exactly which roads lead to their community, and other streets or houses that all look very similar. Our journey began by heading down one of the main roads in Lusaka, and then about an hour and a couple of wrong turns later venturing into one of the many dirt roads to find the juvenile’s house.

Upon finding the juvenile’s home, the real investigating and interviewing begins. Upon arriving at the juvenile’s home, we then had to locate his guardians. Luckily, it was around lunchtime and the juvenile’s guardians and siblings were home. However, this isn’t always the case. If UP Zambia is unable to get a phone number of a guardian because the child is unsure of the number, it truly is a game of cat and mouse. Most of the interns try to go parent tracing in the afternoon or around lunch to have better odds at finding the guardian’s at home or back from venturing to the store or into town for work.

Upon finding the guardian’s, the UP Zambia team then goes on to explain the situation. They get information about the child’s family, inform them of the charges against their child, the status of their case, and stress the importance that they make it to court for their child’s next hearing. Sometimes parents are relieved because they had no idea where their child had gone. Sometimes they know that their child has been arrested, however, they didn’t know about the necessity of their presence in court, how to get there, or maybe have the money to make the journey if they live far away.

 5)    Bring a soccer ball.

This suggestion is mainly for those missions of parent tracing with a couple of Mzungus tagging along. We would like to thank the UP Zambia team for their patience and grace for letting us tag along although it can be a bit of a distraction when it comes to translating.

When we reached the juvenile’s home, his siblings had just gotten out of school and were returning home for the afternoon. Because we were there talking to the family about a serious matter, and in the company of a police officer, interns, a social worker, and 4 girls- it was a bit overwhelming for the family. We decided to get to know the other siblings outside of the house so the parents could have some privacy to talk about the situation of their child. When playing or getting to know children, there is truly no other game like soccer, or football, where no language barrier exists and brings people together.

Therefore, we highly recommend bringing a soccer ball and enjoy having your 8th-grade soccer skills being put to shame by children below the age of 8.

 6)    Enjoy the ride and the company

While parent tracing, don’t forget to take some time and get to know your fellow passengers and see the sights right outside your window as well. For us, parent tracing has been a way to get to see the different sides of Lusaka, get to know our fellow interns, and the juveniles and their families as well.

Parent tracing is more than just a mission or a way to explore the city. It is essential to making sure justice is served for these children. Regardless of where a juvenile comes from or the reason they find themselves in court, when UP Zambia goes parent tracing these juveniles have an advocate and hope. They need UP Zambia. As a group, we are lucky to find ourselves among the next generation of leaders who are selflessly chasing after justice for juveniles and filling in the gaps.

Thank you UP Zambia!

The juvenile’s case in this story is being called again the following week. With the assurance that his parents will be able to make it, we are hopeful that he will be released and begin counseling as an alternative for the offense the juvenile allegedly committed. This will end his four-month stay in Kamwala remand prison that, without the help of UP Zambia, could have meant the child stayed in the remand prison- awaiting a proper sentencing and trial- for a long time.

Post By:  Claire Mosley
Baylor Law School