Righting an imperfect system

legal aid in criminal cases

It is not just about the number: it is all about the impact

While numbers play a major role in monitoring the extent of work efforts, they can only provide a limited picture of the real impact and long-term change affecting the lives of many individuals.

Legal assistance in criminal cases is not only related to influencing judicial outcomes in the long run (guilty or not-guilty verdicts). The early involvement of a lawyer impacts the duration of detention: spending an additional day in jail while waiting for trial may mean losing a job, not being able to pay rent, failing to put food on the table.

In criminal cases, JCLA’s involvement starts at the most crucial stage of the criminal justice system: pretrial. The early hours of criminal proceedings are perhaps the most critical in setting the basis for accused to defend themselves, determining the type of accusation, the length of detention and whether or not the accused will face (fair) trial. Pretrial is also the stage where detainees are the most vulnerable, posing the highest risk of torture and ill-treatment, forced confessions and arbitrary detention. Often, the absence of a lawyer at pretrial leads to longer periods of detention, causing unnecessary additional stress to the accused.