Paralegal Advisory Service Institute (PASI)

The Paralegal Advisory Service Institute (PASI) oversees paralegals who are given access to prisons, courts and police stations to assist persons in detention by advising them on criminal procedure, for example, on bail, and through practical assistance, for example, by tracing family members who can be sureties where this is a condition of bail.

The Paralegal Advisory Service (PAS) was established in May 2000 by Penal Reform International (PRI) in partnership with four Malawian NGOs. PAS started out as a pilot scheme in four regional offices with 8 paralegals employed to work in the 4 main prisons which at the time hosted 62% of the prison population. In August 2007 PAS became independent of PRI as the Paralegal Advisory Services Institute (PASI).

PASI was set up as a Trust with its objectives being to make justice accessible to all people in Malawi through improving efficiency and effectiveness in the justice system and making it responsive to the needs of all users, particularly the poor and vulnerable in pre-trial detention. 

PASI continues to work in partnership with four NGOs which manage the regional offices and employ the paralegals, and has expanded the range of its work to include police stations and courts in addition to prisons.

PASI has a Board, as well as an Advisory Council which includes those in leadership positions in all the main criminal justice institutions in Malawi. PASI's business plan sees the incremental scaling up in employment of paralegal services from the current number of 19 paralegals in 2012, to 57 in 2016 which will allow PASI to provide a national service. 

PASI achieves its impact through the following activities:

  • Legal literacy: Through legal aid clinics, PASI empowers prisoners and persons in conflict with the law to understand criminal law and procedure and to apply it to their own situation. 
  • Legal advice and assistance: Through direct assistance of detainees in various ways such as tracing witnesses or sureties or parents of young offenders. 
  • Co-ordination of the criminal justice system: Improving communication, co-operation and co-ordination between the prisons, courts, police and communities. PASI provides a mobile link between these actors in the criminal justice system to increase its efficiency and improve its operation. 
  • Legal literacy: Through legal aid clinics, PASI empowers prisoners and persons in conflict with the law to understand criminal law and procedure and to apply it to their own situation. 
  • Mediation: PASI is embarking on mediation services to provide conflict resolution services to avoid immediate recourse to the criminal justice system except where appropriate. 
  • Policy development and problem solving: PASI ensures an accurate flow of data to stakeholders and can highlight problems and lobby for solutions e.g. the destruction of a prison by an earthquake has lead to prisoners being detained in inappropriate structures. PASI is lobbying for the correction of this situation.

Legal literacy

PASI paralegals conduct paralegal clinics in places of detention. These are aimed at those prisoners awaiting trial. The course covers six modules from arrest and detention through summary trial to committal proceedings and trial in the high court. Emphasis is placed on preparing prisoners to help themselves by role-playing bail applications, cross examination and pleas in mitigation.

Legal assistance 

PASI paralegals also work with prison officers to screen prisoners to identify those who have been lost in the system, or are in prison unlawfully or inappropriately. These are brought to the attention of the authorities. The paralegals compile case lists and refer cases to the courts or police. They follow up each individual case until the person is released or convicted or sentenced. They assist prisoners in filling in standardized bail forms agreed with the judiciary, which paralegals then lodge with the appropriate court. They contact sureties to ensure they attend court at the right time.

Co-ordination

PASI paralegals also participate in Court User Committees (CUCs) and are instrumental in arranging camp courts, which sit in places of detention rather than at court.  PASI parelegals follow a strict code of conduct, which has ensured their continued access to prisons. 

CONTACT

Telephone +265 1770141

 

 

 

 

 

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