Improving Pretrial Justice: The Roles of Lawyers and Paralegals

Summary: The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the positive impact that early intervention by lawyers and paralegals can have on pretrial justice generally—and on the use of pretrial detention in particular—and to provide a guide to the ways in which lawyer and paralegal schemes can be established. It sets out to demonstrate the benefits not only for the individuals who are advised and assisted, but for the efficiency and effectiveness of criminal justice systems, and for wider society.

Excessive and arbitrary pretrial detention is an overlooked form of human rights abuse that affects millions of people each year, causing and deepening poverty, stunting economic development, spreading disease, and undermining the rule of law. Pretrial detainees may lose their jobs and homes, contract and spread disease, be asked to pay bribes to secure release or better conditions of detention, and suffer physical and psychological damage that lasts long after their detention ends. In view of the magnitude of this worldwide problem, the Open Society Justice Initiative, together with partner organizations, is engaging in a Global Campaign for Pretrial Justice. Its principal purpose is to reduce unnecessary pretrial detention and demonstrate how this can be accomplished effectively at little or no risk to the community.

Current activities of the Global Campaign include collecting empirical evidence to document the scale and gravity of arbitrary and unnecessary pretrial detention; building communities of practice and expertise among NGOs, practitioners, researchers, and policy makers; and piloting innovative practices and methodologies aimed at finding effective, low cost solutions. In addition, the campaign strives to establish linkages with associated fields such as broader rule of law and access to justice initiatives and programs.

The goal of this paper is to demonstrate the positive impact that early intervention by lawyers and paralegals can have in reducing the abuses and other negative effects of pretrial detention, and to provide a guide to establishing pretrial justice schemes. Although this paper makes reference to specific situations and countries, it is important
to note that excessive pretrial detention is a global issue affecting developing and developed countries alike.

This paper is part of a series of papers examining pretrial justice as part of the Global Campaign for Pretrial Justice. In addition to this report on early intervention by lawyers and paralegals, the papers in the series look at the intersection of pretrial detention and economic development, health, torture, and corruption.

More information about the Global Campaign for Pretrial Justice is available at

Further information:

Owner: Ed Capepdf:



    Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.