A prisoner cleaning the floor of Luzira Prison, Uganda.

From: Prisons – Footsteps 104

Practical tips for getting involved in prison ministry and caring for ex-offenders

by Sabrina Mahtani  

People often think that advocacy is just about trying to get the government to change something. But advocacy can happen at many different levels. For example, advocacy can be simply speaking to a prison guard about getting health care for a prisoner.

Here are some top tips: 

1. Take time to understand the issues. Why is this problem happening, what would it take to change it and what are the barriers?  

2. Base your advocacy on solid research. For example, if you say, ‘People are kept in detention for far too long before their trial,’ make sure you have evidence and statistics to back this up. 

3. Build good relationships. Spend time building relationships so you can have discussions with the government or police. Map out who has the power and who your allies are.  

4. Be clear about what you are asking for. For example, do you want a law to be abolished, or do you want cases to come to trial more promptly? 

5. Work in partnership. Try to find other organisations working on similar issues. Working in coalitions gives you a stronger voice and means you have people to support you. 

6. Make sure your work is of a high standard. If the government, donors and NGOs see that you are doing quality work in prisons, they are more likely to invite you into discussions. 

7. Share the message creatively. Use personal examples and case studies to create interest and understanding. 

8. Involve the people you are trying to help. Consult them about what you are doing, and try to give them as much space as possible to be part of the process. 

Sabrina Mahtani is the co-founder of AdvocAid and a graduate of Tearfund’s Inspired Individuals programme. See What makes a fair trial? for details.

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