On any given day, an estimated three million people around the world are behind bars awaiting trial. Many will spend months and even years in detention—without being tried or found guilty—languishing under worse conditions than people convicted of crimes and sentenced to prison.
Many pretrial detainees are exposed to torture, violence, and disease. They are subject to the arbitrary actions of corrupt officials. Throughout their ordeal, most never see a lawyer or legal advisor and often lack information on their basic rights. When they eventually reach a courtroom—without representation and likely beaten down by months of mistreatment—the odds are stacked against them. The longer a detainee is held before trial, the more likely he or she is to be found guilty.
Excessive and arbitrary pretrial detention, compounded by inadequate representation, leads to egregious rights abuses. Pretrial detainees may lose their jobs and homes; contract disease; and suffer physical and psychological damage that lasts long after their detention ends.
The Open Society Justice Initiative is launching a Global Campaign for Pretrial Justice to promote alternatives to pretrial detention, expand access to legal aid services, and deploy paralegals to intervene earlier in the criminal justice process.