Tag Archives | jail

Photo of the Week: “Boys Behind Bars”

Boys behind bars.jpg

I am starting a new blog series, “Photo of the Week,” where I will share a photo from my archive and tell the backstory.  Some may be recent photos and others may be old photos that I’ve rediscovered through new post-production techniques.  Simultaneously, I’ve changed my photography workflow, so I’m going back to revisit and re-master favorites from the archive.  Photos will come from a diverse range of themes, but predominantly a thread I plan to curate, “Images of Justice.”   I’m not a ‘photographer’–those are professionals.  I’m just a lawyer using a camera to tell a story.

“Boy Behind Bars” was shot at a tiny, rural prison in Uganda.  After our juvenile justice work concluded, I went back out for a final visit and brought my camera along.  It’s often too chaotic to shoot when we have 10-15 people visiting out there.  On this trip, it was only three of us, so it was calm and I could capture routine moments of the day.  I spent some time talking to these boys in the jail–many were accused of pretty serious crimes and I was locked in the cell with them for awhile.  We had a good chat and they agreed to let me take their photo.  I wanted a photo of them through the bars with the lock and I got exactly that.  I like the colors and I like the asymmetry of their positions: looking between bars, looking around bars, hands up, hands down, shirt on, shirt off.  Yet, their current conditions are the same.  Both boys were acquitted and/or released after our work.



“Remand”: A Short Film on Jail for Kids in Africa (Finished and in HD)

After some small changes and post-production improvements, "Remand" is now a finished film!  The documentary is short, only 6 minutes.

At Pepperdine, we've been assisting the juvenile justice system in Uganda by going into children's prisions to prepare their cases for trial.  Unfortunatly, kids easily slip through the cracks and some wait as long as 2 years without receiving a trial for a crime they are merely (and often wrongly) accused.

The film is in HD, so please watch FULL SCREEN by clicking the little "X" betwen "HD" and "Vimeo" on the menu at the bottom of the clip window.

Remand: Jail for Kids (HD) from Jay Milbrandt on Vimeo.

On a technical note, I shot this film on a Canon 7D with L-Series lenses.


May It Please the Court?

Yesterday, I wrote about the juvenile justice project we’re conducting at the remand home.  This effort, like so much of the work well-meaning organizations do, is only a bandage.  In many ways, the Uganda legal system feels, metaphorically, like the levees I see on CNN holding back the Mississippi floodwaters.  The Ugandan legal system is flooded with work.  It’s backlogged.


With the juvenile justice project, we’re just put our pail in the floodwaters and throwing it to the side.  It barely makes a dent and the waters continue to rise.  The answer is to build a new structure to better manage the water before the levee breaks.

This is where Pepperdine can come in to help.  We are good at thinking through new STRUCTURES.  We’ve been hard at work on implementing plea bargaining, but it’s going to take a lot of thought.  Much has to be done before a new, efficient structure can be fully integrated.  Pepperdine needs to collaborate with the judiciary on projects such as writing sentencing guidelines that will direct the plea bargaining process.


On the juvenile front, we’ve been asked to work with the Uganda Judiciary to help them revamp the juvenile justice system.  It needs to be overhauled and Pepperdine students have the capacity that the judiciary doesn’t due to its load and limited manpower. 

Together, we can build a new system that effectively manages the flood.  Hopefully we can prevent the backlog, especially for kids, and see that justice is done in a way that we no longer have to return to help with children’s cases.

And, to answer the question I posed in the title of this blog entry, YES, it does please the court.

The continuation of our work was once again confirmed by today’s important meetings with the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice, and Principle Judge.  All are pleased with the collaboration between Pepperdine and Uganda have asked for more.  We are in a position to truly achieve the structural change that matters.


How did we get here—to a place that many justice-seeking organizations envy?  Relationships.  We became friends.  Our partnership with Uganda, in my mind, is characterized by friendship.  We serve them through the assistance we can provide and they serve us in many, chiefly by giving our students the incredible experience of working in Uganda.

To achieve meaningful and lasting change, we must first start as friends.


Justice for Kids – Today’s Work in the Prison


Today we spent the entire day at the Naguru Remand Home working on the cases of children arrested and charged with capital offences.  There are 158 children at the Remand Home (jail for kids) and most have been charged with petty offenses.  We took 14 of the cases and only those charge with capital crimes, meaning they could receive the death penalty.  It should be understood that many crimes constitute capital crimes, but Uganda has not administered the death penalty in over 20 years and doesn’t plan to do so.


Our team constituted the Pepperdine Law students, faculty, and alumni (about 11 of us), students and staff from the law school at Uganda Christian University, and lawyers from the Uganda Christian Lawyers Fraternity.  We divided into 3 subgroups to split up the cases.  Interviews can take up to 2 hours, so we had a lot of work to do.

We finished one interview the night before and had to get through 4 today.  The night before we had an alleged murder.  The young man charged with the murder was a motorcycle driver who claims the police covered up the murder committed by one of their own and accused the young man when he dropped his passenger off at the scene.  Based on my experience (with is admittedly limited), both stories are plausible.  Motorcycles drivers are notorious for committing “mob justice” on alleged criminals and there have been instances of cover-ups by individual police officers.  The answer likely rests in the police records for the case, which will demonstrate the injuries and indicate which story is correct.  Unfortunately, we are struggling to obtain the police reports.


Other interesting cases included several aggravated defilement (rape) cases.  In many of these cases, the accused claims that the victim consented while the indictment says it was forcible.  This comes down to a he-said-she-said situation and we have to try to ferret out the facts.  One common scenario is that the accused thinks the victim is of-age and later finds out she isn’t of age or there’s a discrepancy in the facts.  It’s very difficult to determine someone’s age with accuracy.  In Uganda, they determine age by measuring a person’s teeth—I’m not sure how that works.

Our briefs are coming down to the struggle that we have not been able to access police reports yet.  In Uganda, the prosecutor doesn’t share these reports with the defense until the trial, which is very challenging.  Prosecution becomes a game a surprise where you blindside the other with evidence at trial.  We’re trying to change some of those habits.


Tonight, we’re all crammed into a room at the hotel working hard on the briefs.  We are calling witnesses and working through the cases.  Tomorrow morning we might return to the remand home with follow up questions.  Until then, it might be another late night in the “war room.”


Jail for Kids in Africa: A Photo Essay

This afternoon we started our juvenile justice project at the Naguru Remand Home (jail for kids) in Uganda.  This is a repeat of the juvenile justice project I did in Masindi a year ago, but with new cases and a different prison.  We will be working on these cases over the next three days.  Today, I thought I would start with a short photo essay as I had the opportunity to shoot this afternoon.



Entrance to the Naguru Remand Home in Kampala.  Our team waits inside.



I’m often asked what “remand home” means.  This photo captures it. 



If you live at the remand home, you’ve got to work.  There’s a hierarchy among the kids and you’re voted to perform certain jobs, such as fetching water.



The “dormitry,” as spelled on their wall.  There are two nearly identical wings for the boys.



Even though you’re surrounded by 150 kids, remand can be a lonely experience.



Jail for kids is still jail no matter what title you give it.



Collaboration at work: Pepperdine students, faculty, and alumni; students from Uganda Christian University; and lawyers Uganda Christian Lawyers Fellowship.  "The Team" interviews children from the jail.


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