Paralegals changing lenses

John Braithwaite

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    This editorial is about how a paralegal programme can multiply the effectiveness of restorative justice and reduce the imprisonment rate. That programme is in Bangladesh, but it helps answer a question relevant for every country and that for me started in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). My friend Symphorien Pyana from a Jesuit nongovernmental rganisation (NGO) in DRC recently said that there was a desperate need in Eastern DRC for an initiative to get former child soldiers out of prison. Footloose former child soldiers frighten people when they hang around on the streets of Congolese towns. I have experienced that fear. Some have a faraway stare; when they congregate near an ATM, fear is a natural response if you are taking money from the ATM. So police and soldiers often arrest them with little justification. Those who do have affiliations with organised crime groups bribe prison officials to release them out the back door of the prison. It is the innocent children who are left there to rot. They are forgotten as they wait for completion of a non-existent investigation, often into a non-existent crime. One thought I had about this challenge was to approach the Catholic Cardinal of Belgium, whom I had met on a visit to KU Leuven, to solicit interest among retired Belgian lawyers to volunteer to work with Symphorien to get the former child soldiers released into educational/vocational programmes or to get them a trial date if there truly were grounds for a prosecution to proceed. On reflection, this did not seem an especially cost-effective approach, as the Belgian lawyers would all require expensive airfares, accommodation and security. Most of the former child soldiers would speak little or no French.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)311-324
    JournalRestorative Justice
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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