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.

Brian Serr

One Day Freedom – Brian Serr

“One Day Freedom” – this is the simple phrase that UPZambia employs to convey a sense of hope to their teenaged clients. Inevitable delays in the Zambian justice system – due in large part to insufficient funding of an insufficient number of courts staffed by an insufficient number of legally trained judges – make it difficult to predict with any degree of precision when detained children will once again enjoy freedom. But “one day” it will happen. You will get your life back “one day.” One Day Freedom.

Evans Mfula is a 16-year-old boy who was one of UPZambia’s clients. While detained in an adult prison for nearly a year “on remand” (awaiting trial), for a crime he did not commit, Evans held on to this hope: “One Day Freedom.” We know this from the paper plate that Evans painted one Saturday when visited by UPZambia volunteers who brought art supplies along to the prison for the kids. Evans’ paper plate (below) may not look like something a 16-year-old would paint. But if you imagine children whose academic development and emotional maturity are delayed by grinding poverty and inadequate educational opportunities, it can explain how a 16-year-old’s art project looks more like what might be expected, in America, from a first grader. And yet, the message painted on Evans’ paper plate reveals a mature understanding of his situation: “One Day Freedom … Come Better Life … After Suf(f)er”

Evans and his friend, the appropriately named Innocent, were arrested for murder, based on nothing that could reasonably be viewed as “evidence.” They became suspects only because they were found in the presence of the two primary suspects the day after the murder. Those two suspects quickly confessed to the murder, they both gave a statement that only the two of them were involved, which corroborated Evans’ and Innocents’ story that they knew nothing about the killing, didn’t know their friends had killed anyone, and certainly didn’t participate.

As a professor of criminal law, I have read thousands of criminal cases. Yet, as I read Evans’ case file last week at the UPZambia office, just after viewing his paper plate on the wall, there was one thing after another that put me in a sort of legal culture shock. The story begins with a woman worrying out loud that she didn’t have money for baby formula for her young child. Two friends of hers decide later that they could get some money for baby formula from a cab driver. The cab driver resisted, things escalated, and one held the driver while the other pulled a knife and stabbed him. As the two had never done anything like this before, they suffered immense guilt. The following day they arranged a meeting in Lusaka with a witch doctor so that they could be “cleansed” of their crime. So that the witch doctor could acquire the correct charms for the cleansing, the two provided some details of their crime. The witch doctor reported the conversation to the police and the police were waiting to arrest when they showed up at the witch doctor’s home. Before leaving their village for Lusaka, and without telling Evans and Innocent about why they were driving to Lusaka, they asked Evans and innocent if they wanted to ride along.

As strange as the entire case seems, for me it was just as strange that police would arrest someone merely for being with the suspects a day after the crime. Such “guilt” by mere association does not come close to the “probable cause” that police officers need to legally arrest someone in America, or, for that matter, under the law in Zambia. Moreover, the police investigation quickly yielded confessions by the actual perpetrators, who implicated each other and had no reason not to implicate Evans and Innocent had they been involved in the crime in any way. Meanwhile both Evans and Innocent maintained their innocence, and neither said anything even remotely close to incriminating in their respective statements to the police. Despite the utter lack of evidence, they were nevertheless formally charged with murder and detained pending trial due to the severity of the charge. Due to the lack of juvenile detention facilities, they were detained in an adult prison, in conditions where they barely had room to roll over at night.

One Day Freedom – that day came just a few weeks ago, as a direct result of UPZambia’s legal assistance. That happy ending has come with some challenges. After a year in substandard conditions, Evans and Innocent have had some difficulties adjusting to their freedom. They are not eating well, and they show some other signs of trauma. With a new sibling, Evans even came home to a different family than the one he remembered. Despite those challenges, he has largely realized the hopes he painted on his paper plate many months ago in prison: “One Day Freedom… Come Better Life … After Suffer.”

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.

Court Procedures, Student Perspective

Heinous Crimes Procedure – Fallon Seitz

I met two teenagers on remand. They were charged jointly along with two other adults for aggravated robbery. The four allegedly broke a window and stole $400 of alcohol. All four pled not guilty. The teenagers had recently found out the adults received sentences of 15 years, which is not the type of news you would want to hear after two years in an overcrowded prison. And by overcrowded, I mean they both sleep sitting upright because there is no room to lay down and both have contracted contagious skin infections.

Those accused of heinous crimes (e.g. aggravated robbery, murder and trafficking [including possession of >0.5 grams of marijuana]) may spend two years or more in jail on remand before they are found guilty or acquitted. In the best-case scenario, the accused will remain in custody over a month before entering a plea.

Police stations

The accused can be held in custody and interrogated at the police station for up to two weeks, as heinous crimes are not bailable. Sometimes police delay arraignment by shuffling accused offenders to other police stations, violating the accused’s right to see a magistrate within a reasonable time. The most egregious example of this shuffle has resulted in two months of the accused not seeing a magistrate.

Court process

The court proceedings for heinous crimes occur in the following order:

Subordinate court

  1. The accused’s case is called, and the court asks for the juvenile’s parents. If the parents are not present, most magistrates adjourn the matter for—at most—two weeks. During this time, the court may issue a removal warrant, ordering the arresting officer, the juvenile and UP Zambia to trace the parents before the next court date.
    • If the juvenile’s family cannot be traced (e.g. he lives by himself), the court dispenses with the requirement of the guardian’s presence, and the probation officer from the social welfare office acts as a surrogate guardian.
  1. Once the parents or guardians are present, the court will record their age, occupation, physical address, contact information and relation to the juvenile. With the parents or guardians present, the court confirms the juvenile’s age, occupation, and residential address. Furthermore, the court reads and explains to the juvenile their alleged offense.
    • Juveniles accused of heinous crimes do not plea at the subordinate court, because the subordinate court has no jurisdiction to try heinous crimes. The juvenile and their guardians merely appear for the charge to be read and explained. The court will keep explaining and simplifying the explanation of the charge to the juvenile until they understand the charge.
  1. The Director of Public Prosecutions (or DPP) oversees the prosecution of all criminal matters and evaluates the available evidence to determine whether a trial is warranted. If the evidence warrants a trial, the DPP issues a certificate of committal to the High Court. This certificate alerts the High Court of the upcoming trial. In most cases, however, the subordinate court grants the DPP’s motions of continuances, and the case lingers in subordinate court for months.
    • Before a certificate of committal has been issued, the magistrate—sua sponte or by a motion of the accused—can conduct a preliminary inquiry. After conducting this inquiry, the magistrate gives their opinion of the evidence produced on the record and can discharge the case. Even if a juvenile is discharged pursuant to the inquiry, the DPP can later re-arrest and prosecute the juvenile following the DPP’s evaluation of the evidence. The DPP can terminate the inquiry before it is completed by:
      1. Determining no probable cause exists and entering a nolle prosequi that discharges the accused.
      2. Determining probable cause exists and issuing a certificate of committal to the High Court.
  1. When a certificate of committal has been issued by the DPP the accused must wait for the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) to add the case to the High Court docket. The NPA determines the order in which cases are tried, and the NPA can several months to cause list a juvenile’s case to the High Court docket. The Judge in charge allocates the cause listed cases to other High Court judges.
    • With misdemeanors (i.e. non-heinous crimes) the cause-list wait time for subordinate court appellants is frequently lengthened by at least two months just for a file to be created, following a conviction at the subordinate court.

High court

  1. If the accused cannot afford an attorney, the state accords one to them through the Legal Aid Board. UP Zambia has a memorandum of understanding with the Legal Aid Board to assist with unrepresented juveniles in Lusaka. This MOU was borne out of necessity as the Legal Aid Board is severely backlogged, like some public defender’s offices in America.
      • Current Legal Aid Board legislation caps the number attorneys, which can only be increased by future legislation.
      • The PLEED program has successfully lobbied to introduce legislation that grants paralegals more powers to alleviate the Legal Aid Board.
  1. High Court judges travel circuits, sitting in different districts throughout the year. Therefore, cases allocated to judges can only be heard when that judge’s criminal session opens in the designated district. The unavailability of a designated High Court judge creates a backlog of cases, as criminal matters can only be heard at specific intervals.
  1. When a case has been cause-listed and a judge allocated, the judge’s clerk then provides court dates. At the first hearing in the High Court, the accused can formally plea. In the swiftest cases, the accused pleads within a month or two. In other cases, the accused waits over a year to finally plea.
  1. Trial can result in numerous delays. In the past, High Court judges have simply forgotten about a case due to their burdensome caseload. UP Zambia, reminds the court of cases that have gone cold as the accused’s file may go to the bottom of the pile.
  1. Once the trial concludes, the accused will wait for judgment. If found guilty, the court orders the juvenile to offer mitigating factors that will be considered for sentencing. Lastly, a juvenile’s sentence cannot be delivered without a social welfare report, which requires contact with the juvenile’s parents, guardian or in extraordinary circumstances, the report of the probation officer.


“Reform” School

After spending years in remand, convicted juveniles are often sentenced to a reformatory, approved or “prove” schools. These sentences are not reduced for time already served on remand. The sentence begins when the juvenile arrives at the prove school, which can occur months after judgment. Sometimes, the prisons cannot afford the petrol to transport the juveniles. In some instances, the juvenile is convicted and transported to a prove school in 5 months. In other cases, the accused is on remand for years as the proceedings are delayed ad infinitum.

Absolute Discharge

UP Zambia has successfully advocated for some convicted juveniles to receive an absolute discharge at sentencing, persuading the judge to consider the time they were on remand.

Counseling Orders

Probation orders are another favorable alternative. This conditional release requires the juvenile to regularly attend a counseling program, and this sentence is typically reserved for first-time, juvenile offenders.

The teenagers’ best-case scenario is absolute discharge, where the court recognizes their time-served as sufficient punishment. It’s not unprecedented, but it’s unlikely.

The teenagers’ most likely sentence is “reform” school, which would not recognize their time served in prison. The reform schools somehow negatively impact the juvenile’s demeanors worse than the overcrowded prisons. For example, one of the reform schools—Katamboro—implements a practice where more tenured juveniles are empowered to whip and pummel new arrivals into solemnity. Another reform school—Nakambala—has no fences and allows the community, notorious for drug abuse, to freely roam around the school grounds. At least you are serving your time.

The teenagers’ mood was not improved by our optimism, so I gave them my lunch, a couple of KIND bars. They walked away without saying much, but I hoped my group provided a brief respite to their despair. They were certain their fate would be fifteen more years, and they weren’t excited about spending a year in Katamboro—the juveniles have heard the stories of the disciplinary regime.

It will take time and people, like those in UP Zambia, to encourage the country to improve correctional intervention.