2015 Malawi Law

  • A Malawian courthouse and a courtroom in lower court

    A Malawian courthouse and a courtroom in lower court

‌Prisoner health and access to justice in Malawi: An interdisciplinary exploration

Summer 2015

Led by Douglas Colbert, JD, Carey School of Law; Rebecca Bowman-Rivas, MSW, Carey School of Law

Students (school affiliation): Elva Krohn (social work), Amy Lang (social work), Catherine Lee (law), Mona Qureshi (law)

Project goal

UMB faculty and students collaborated and conducted workshops with faculty members and clinic law students from University of Malawi's Chancellor College Faculty of Law  to explore issues of Malawi's criminal justice system and solutions for jail overcrowding and delayed access to legal representation for detainees.

Project description

Starting in 2010, the Center for Global Education Initiatives has sent interprofessional teams of faculty and students to Malawi to conduct global health research and service projects. In 2013, Maryland Carey Law professors, Diane Hoffmann, Director of the Law and Health Care Program, and Peter Danchin, Director of the International and Comparative Law Program, along with students from each school on campus traveled to Malawi and met with faculty and students from Chancellor College Faculty of Law to discuss the possibility of establishing an ongoing relationship between the two law schools. On this trip, Hoffmann and Danchin worked with Malawian law faculty to conduct a week-long HIV/AIDS workshop that brought together the interprofessional UMB student team and Malawian law students on the subject of HIV/AIDS law and policy. Chancellor College Faculty of Law professors, Chikosa Banda and Kassim Amuli, visited the Maryland law school and met with Maryland Carey Law Faculty in Spring 2014. At that visit, faculty members brainstormed about different ways in which the two law schools could learn from each other. The 2015 collaboration involved Maryland Carey Law Professor Douglas Colbert and Rebecca Bowman-Rivas, Law and Social Work Service Program Manager, along with two law and two social work students, who traveled to Malawi to work with Chancellor College Faculty of Law instructors on the topic of criminal justice reform focusing on the negative health consequences of jail overcrowding, inappropriate pretrial detention, and lack of legal access to representation.

Project outcomes

Through these activities, UMB faculty and students gained a deeper understanding of how under-resourced Malawi's criminal justice and pretrial detention system really are and brainstormed with their peers at Chancellor College Faculty of Law to define steps they could take towards finding solutions. On the academic side, UMB faculty and students shared the law clinic model used at Maryland Carey Law, and Chancellor Law School faculty are now working on formally adding a law clinic as a credited course to their curriculum, formalizing what was previously volunteer work by students. Chancellor College is also expanding their curriculum to include sequential experiential course offerings starting in study year 1 and continuing through year 4. UMB demonstrated the benefits of incorporating interdisciplinary collaborations with social workers in their casework which piqued the interest of Chancellor's faculty and students; they are currently exploring how to integrate social work components into their law school's experiential and clinical coursework. Chancellor College is currently in its early phases of shaping their new social work program and this project has encouraged interdisciplinary training across their law and social work programs.

Student reflections

"Through my experience I learned the impact of resource availability on the concept of professional responsibility. In the United States, we tend to define professionalism and professional responsibility as a personal or moral choice. However, in underdeveloped or developing countries, it is based on the availability of resources and governmental investment - things that professionals tend to have little control over." -Catherine Lee, Carey School of Law

"The IPE trip to Malawi offered an opportunity to work interprofessionally on a large-scale level with my international colleagues, but my greatest learning and growth came from finding my role on the UMB team. Managing group dynamics and identifying areas where the social work team members could have an impact were seemingly small things at the start of the project but ended up being my major contribution to our project. Interprofessional work is just as much about process as product." -Elva Krohn, School of Social Work