Student Perspective

An Unforgettable Summer – Zeeshan Iqbal

In order to protect the identity and privacy of the inmates of the prisons, employees of UP Zambia, and inters of UP Zambia, I will be using pseudonyms to refer to people. None of the names used in this post are true and correct. 

This has been an unforgettable summer for me personally. Although there were plenty of rough patches and frustrating nights, I can honestly say, this was one of the best experiences of my life. I wanted to take this time to talk about some of my experiences working with UP Zambia.

As I look back at my time in Zambia, there are several moments that stand out. Although the interns and employees of UP Zambia were great, what really comes to mind is all the experiences I had with the kids and adults in the prisons. I was actually able to develop a pretty good connection with a few different people. There was one particular inmate in Lusaka Central (LC) that I thought I really bonded with (let’s call him Eminem). The reason I call him Eminem is because he was actually a really great rapper. In fact while I was in the prison, he shared with me a few songs that he recorded himself. I can actually remember one occasion where he and I tried to make a song up on the spot while waiting to interview a different inmate. Although UP Zambia was not able to help Eminem (he had his own lawyer), he was still more than willing to help members of UP Zambia. Eminem did everything from finding particular inmates that we were looking for to helping with the language gap.

“Bars Behind Bars (Freestyle)” – Recorded July 2019

The language gap is something I did find a little difficult to get around. If it wasn’t for inmates like Eminem, it would have been really difficult to communicate with several of the inmates since I didn’t always have a Zambian intern with me. While Eminem was my LC translator, Jordan was his counterpart in Kamwala. Just like Eminem, Jordan had his own legal counsel so UP Zambia could not help him. That being said, he was still more than willing to help UP Zambia. Since I worked primarily at Kamwala, I interacted a lot more with Jordan than I did with Eminem. Jordan and I actually used to work out together in Kamwala. Although there wasn’t exactly state of the art gym equipment in the prison, the prisons did make do with what they had. At first I thought this was kind of odd but I soon realized that things like this make-shift gym were necessary. I gave the prisoners something to do. During my last day, Jordan and I actually ended up doing a sort of competition where we went through a kind of training circuit.

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.

Student Perspective

UP Zambia: The Importance of Parent Tracing – Miles Moody

The juvenile justice system in Zambia relies heavily on court appearances of parents or guardians for an accused juvenile. A parent or guardian must be present in court for the juvenile’s case to proceed. If no one is there the court will adjourn to a later date and hope that someone will show up next week for the individual. This is when UP Zambia will step in and conduct parent tracing to find and tell the parents that they need to be in court for their child.

During my time in Zambia, I came across two individuals who were in court but had not had a parent present. After speaking with both of them, Doria (Northrise Intern) and myself, concluded that the children had no way to contact their parents and let them know that they were even arrested. This meant that the children either did not know their parents phone numbers or the parents did not have a phone. Also, the children did not know the street address of where they lived. All they could do was tell us specifics on how to find the parents and who in the compounds we could ask for help when looking for the parents. This usually meant getting the names of the most well-known people as well as descriptions and colors of buildings or landmarks to help us find the parents.

Along our search for the parents, Doria and I were accompanied by Mwingi, who works at UP Zambia. Mwingi is an absolute professional at parent tracing. Searching for the parents is a very daunting task because you are generally always in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people. What makes it harder is that the local citizens are very skeptical of why you are in their compound and looking for someone’s parents. It especially doesn’t help when there is a tall white man following who cannot speak the local language. However, I found it helpful to try to interact with the local children to show that there was no reason to be scared of me and that I was truly friendly and just trying to help by finding the parents. It was always nice to see the little kids follow us around and be curious of why we were there, so I would stop and crouch down to try to say hi to them and give them high fives. I would also do my best to try to say hi in the local language. This seemed to make everyone feel a little more comfortable and allowed us to actually get help from the local people to find the juveniles parents.

Once, we found the juvenile’s parents, which we were two for two on parent tracing, we informed them their child was in the remand prison in Lusaka and was waiting for a parent to show up to court to deal with their case. What made me so happy about finding both of these parents was the fact that both juveniles would eventually be released. One child was going to have his charges dropped and the other was going to be let out on bail. This was a big win for team Kamwala. Although, the juveniles weren’t physically released while I was there, knowing that their parents are now aware of what’s going on and when they need to be in court next is a great feeling. If UP Zambia was not doing parent tracing, the juveniles would theoretically be sitting in remand prison waiting for trial for over a year. Now, because of a few hours of our time, the children will be able to proceed in court and will be released back home with their parents or guardians.

Student Perspective, Uncategorized

The Four P’s – Sarah Hayes

Before beginning work in the Zambian justice system, we, the six Baylor Law and four Northrise University interns, sat down for an orientation session. It was helpful to learn about the how and why behind UP Zambia before diving right into the next few weeks of working with juveniles in custody. Sara Larios, one of the UP Zambia co-founders, explained that the program operates with four core values in mind: proximity, problem-solving, professionalism, and passion. These four words are more than just abstract ideals – they are values that the entire team actively practices every single day. I can say this with confidence because I’ve been a witness to “The Four Ps” in action each day that I’ve been with the UP Zambia team.

Proximity

UP Zambia strives to be close to clients in every relevant field – in prison, in the community, and in court. Each Saturday, members of the UP Zambia team meet at Kamwala Remand Prison, where several of the juvenile clients are held in custody as they await their sentences. On one Saturday in particular, we lugged in backpacks filled with flour, sugar, oil, and other baking supplies and commenced a morning of making fritters. As it turns out, cooking enough fritters to feed 70 kids takes a while, so we were able to spend several hours just hanging out with the juveniles in custody, who are really just normal teenage boys. They performed raps for us and taught (or tried to teach) us bits of Bemba and Nyanja, cracking up when we butchered simple words and phrases. I liked being able to hang out with the kids as friends rather than being restricted to seeing them only in a stuffy, serious courtroom, and I could tell that the Saturday visits positively impact the relationships between the UP Zambia team and their clients.

Problem-Solving

To say juvenile justice in Zambia is hard work would be an understatement. There are frequent bumps in the road – missing witnesses, lost files, overwhelming caseloads – that make it difficult to make progress at times. Thankfully, everyone on the team is an expert problem-solver and adept at finding alternate paths to resolve issues. Giving up on a case is never an option they consider. On one morning in particular, I was in court observing Mpaso, one of the staff attorneys. A case came up for trial that had been continuously been reset; the juvenile had been sitting in custody since his arrest in January. The matter was about to be reset again because the complainant, whose presence was required, had not shown up to court. As the magistrate announced that the case would be adjourned yet again, Mpaso stood and said that she would go and find the complainant herself in order to see that the juvenile would not have to return to custody again without any progress being made on his case (through no fault of his own). Sure enough, after a few hours of searching as other cases were heard, Mpaso was successful! She found the complainant and brought him into court so that the case could proceed. If it weren’t for Mpaso and her willingness to see the case through, who knows how much longer the juvenile would have had to sit in prison, waiting for his case to be heard.

Professionalism

During our first week in Lusaka, Baylor Law’s very own Dean Toben spoke to the entire UP Zambia team about professionalism. Dean Toben posed the question, “What does it mean to be a professional?” The general consensus was that it means to be well-trained and an expert in the field. Every Thursday at the UP Zambia office, the staff participates in a legal training to hone their skills. Sarah Rempel, one of the staff attorneys, speaks on topics like interviewing, fact investigation, and client-centered lawyering. Then, everyone on the team gets a chance to practice the skills learned about that day. I’ve enjoyed these in-depth sessions on important legal skills and have been able to put them into practice, especially while interviewing clients in prison. One day in particular, we discussed the four stages of a client interview: the introduction, the open-ended “tell me everything” stage, the probing questions, and the recap. As I was recapping the story of the boy I was interviewing, he was able to point out important details that I had missed the first time around. This interaction made me understand why it’s necessary to learn and practice legal skills frequently. The importance UP Zambia places on professionalism and staying sharp when it comes to necessary legal skills ultimately benefits their clients in the long run.

Passion

I see passion for juvenile justice every single minute of every day in every person on the UP Zambia team. The way they tirelessly fight for their clients – spending hours digging through file rooms in the court to find papers that have been forgotten, traveling to the outskirts of Lusaka to track down parents of juveniles in custody – demonstrates that the work they are doing is important and justice for these kids is something worth fighting for. I think that it would be fairly easy to get caught up in the day to day tasks like interviewing clients and submitting forms and forget about the bigger picture, but everyone on the UP Zambia team constantly reminds each other of why they do what they do. Their passion is contagious and makes me excited to wake up each day and head to the prison, the court, or the office. I am so thankful for this passionate group of people that pour their energy and drive into obtaining “one day freedom” for their teenaged clients.