The Role of Lawyers and Paralegals in Fighting Pretrial Injustice

Every year, across the world, countless people are unnecessarily arrested and improperly detained by law enforcement agencies. This can have a terrible impact on the individuals detained, as well as on their families, and on their communities.  Those in pretrial detention are often held in worse conditions and subject to treatment that is far worse than that experienced by sentenced prisoners. In some countries, pretrial detainees —who are meant be considered innocent until proven guilty—can wait behind bars for years before ever seeing the inside of a courtroom.

The Open Society Justice Initiative has produced a series of recent reports on some of the indirect consequences of excessive pretrial detention: how it can cripple the economic and social well being not only of the detainees, but of their familes; how it leaves them exposed to the threat of torture and abuse by those holding theml; how it can erode their health, and the health of their families and communities.

Now we are looking at solutions.  Our latest report, Improving Pretrial Justice: The Roles of Lawyers and Paralegals, looks at how early intervention by lawyers and paralegals after an arrest can break the cycle of pretrial injustice. Providing legal assistance early in the process—in the first hours and days after a person has been arrested or detained—can have enormous benefits not just the individuals, but for the entire criminal justice system.

The report provides a comprehensive and straightforward guide to effective early intervention. It sets out the international criminal justice standards that provide for the right to legal assistance, and examines the problems and challenges at the pretrial stage of criminal proceedings. It describes the impact that defense lawyers and paralegals can have on individuals, and to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system.

Crucially, it also provides practical advice and recommendations to governments and legal aid management organizations on how to set up and operate an early intervention scheme. It uses examples of replicable models around the world, from developed and developing countries alike.   Pretrial justice can be achieved through a range of different mechanisms, some which reflect more traditional approached to legal advice and assistance, while others involve more innovative responses to conditions in less wealthy and post-conflict countries.

Improving Pretrial Justice: The Roles of Lawyers and Paralegals can be downloaded for free by clicking here. If you would like to receive a hard copy of this report, please email us at [email protected]

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the bail reform acts of 1966 and 1984 repealed the right to bail and actually made things worse. prior to 1966, the legislature or the supreme court should have been sanctioning the chief judges who allowed their judges to set excessively high bails. instead, they created these two reforms, created "pretrial release" and ironically directly gave these same abusive judges the direct ability to actually detain accuseds before trial. giving judges detention discretion is like giving drug addicts drugs. repeal the reform act and bring back the right to bail.

in 1966, the foreign courts saw the u.s. abolish sect 33 of the judiciary act of 1789. in 1984, the foreign courts saw what the united states has done with giving judges the power to alternatively detain or incarcerate before trial. the foreign courts saw the u.s. trend towards more, not less, detention before trial. the u.s. court system no longer provides the pretrial model you speak to. the u.s. court system is not the envy of the world. the foreign courts see that the u.s. court system is horribly broken. the foreign courts laugh when the u.s. lawyers tout that they have created the best system in the world. the foreign courts saw when judges were given the discretionary power to detain before trail. do you think that the foreign courts will listen to the advice of the u.s. lawyers who allowed the "pretrial reforms" of 1966 and 1984 to happen. what the u.s. court system of today does, is just the opposite - it incentivises the foreign judges to continue to slam the accuseds and provide them with no rights. the u.s. court system is an example of how to revoke rights that were by all stretches of the imagination provided by the u.s. constitution and the bill of rights.

funny, the gideon case and the bail reform act of 1966 provided lawyers with tons of money they previously didn't have access to. yet today, detention prior to trial is the "norm". where are all the lawyers protecting the rights of accuseds - they are at the "club" counting their money.

Unfortunately in an age where repeat offenders are let back into the streets within hours of committing a crime, bail reform couldn't come any sooner. California attorney

"Innocent until proven guilty" is the magic phrase when it comes to ensuring that the criminal justice system protects our rights rather than forcibly infringes upon them. ICBC lawyer Vancouver

This is an absolute truth, so many people get harrassed without any significant reason, and so many criminals are romaing about freely without a mark on them. And I really appreciate for thinking in the way you are, it is very much neccessary to bring a solution to this huge problem. And it is very very much required to improve the pretrial justice.


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