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Jan 3, 2019 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

For some prisoners in Uganda and Kenya, the African Prisons Project is paving the way toward freedom -- and a better life.

Founded in Kenya and Uganda in 2007 by then law student, Alexander McLean, a Brit volunteering in Uganda at the time, the project aims to help inmates master basic literacy skills and then advance to law skills. 

In its latest iteration, the project helps place students in the University of London's online law program.

As reported in the Daily Mail, project spokeswoman Peggy Nyahera said 800 inmates had been freed this year alone through the program.

Hamisi Mzari, a legal aid officer with the project who works with inmates at Kenya's Kamiti Maximum Prison, said, "Last examination we did in May, we had a distinction from this prison. We had somebody who had a 72 pass mark grade, which is a distinction under the grading of the University of London."

He added, "People are now seeing that the people whom we took into prison, whom we had considered that they are the litter and the garbage of society, they are now coming out as polished gold."

Many are able to represent themselves in courts where they had no prior representation -- and therefore received sentences inconsistent with their crimes. 

The high scoring prisoner in May,  45-year-old George Karaba, had been charged with murder and sentenced to death. With his new education, he's applying for a presidential pardon -- and serves as a role model for his peers. 

While the program faces many challenges, like internet access, security restrictions, and basic facilities, the project aims to establish a law college in Kenya's Naivasha Maximum Prison by 2020. The goal is to expand legal services to about 10,000 inmates. About 5,000 prisoners have received training or services so far.

Kenyan High Court judge Luka Kimaru said, "The African Prisons Project has enabled the prisoners to have a better understanding of their case and a better way of presenting it before court, hence the improved success rate of their cases," Kenyan High Court judge Luka Kimaru said.

Currently, 60 students are studying for the University of London degrees.

Learn more about studying online.

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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