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About the Wits Justice Project
The Wits Justice Project investigates the plight of those locked up in South Africa’s prisons.
High crime levels means the fate of prisoners does not feature on the public agenda. While the presumption of innocence is one of the fundamental principles of justice in a democratic society, it is widely assumed that prisoners, whether sentenced or not, are behind bars for a reason. For many, however, this is not the case.
A third of the South African prison population is locked up awaiting trial, many for years. Yet approximately 2 in 5 of these people will eventually be acquitted. This means that a staggering number of innocent people are being deprived of their freedom.
At the same time there are other prisoners, convicted by the courts, who continue to protest their innocence. Many of these are also innocent. For these people too, the denial of justice is the denial of their basic human rights.
The Wits Justice Project will investigate the individual cases of wrongly convicted and awaiting trial prisoners.
The Justice Project aims to:
• understand the reasons why justice is frequently delayed or denied
• provide proof that in many cases this is the consequence of system defects
• raise public awareness of justice denied
• produce compelling evidence for the need for reform.
The Justice Project is located in the Journalism department, University of the Witwatersrand.
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