Raising legal awareness of prisoners

In 2013-2014, the Vietnam Programme supported a legal awareness project in Hue City in central Vietnam.

Students from the Law Faculty at Hue University have visited prisons and communities to raise legal awareness.

Dieu Ha (20). Photo: Solveig M. Igesund

- When I was young I watched TV-shows with lawyers and I thought they were so cool. I wanted to know more about my legitimate rights, and Hue was the closest option, says Dieu Ha (20).

Dieu Ha is one of around 80 volunteers in the Clinical Legal Education (CLE) project at the Law Faculty at Hue University.

The purpose of the project is to raise legal awareness of inmates in and around Hue and offer a better chance of re-entry into the community.

- Usually we have trainings for 100-300 prisoners. Many ask us questions such as: My wife is cheating on me, can I get a divorce? I have taken drugs, will I be punished? If we behave well, will we be released sooner?

Gaining and developing skills

A second purpose of the project is to create awareness among the law students of the need for legal aid. According to the students, they also gain valuable skills by being part of the CLE-team at Hue University.

- When we visit the prisons we collect written questions and then we work in pair to find the answer. The project has taught us about teamwork, says Van Chien (21).

Before visiting the prison the students spend up to one month to prepare. They make power-point presentations, video-recordings and develop role-plays.

- Many law students, and others, don't have the chance to go to the prison and meet the inmates. We therefore get the opportunity to learn how to communicate with people in a difficult situation, says Huyen Tsang.

Difficulties

In order to help prisoners reintegrate into the community, the students and their lecturers also planned to organise counselling sessions after the prisoners' release.

- We tried to get a list of names of released prisoners in order to visit them and ask them if they needed advice. We met 3-4 persons but they did not want to see us, they were embarrassed. So the plan was not successful and I do not think we should continue with that, says Luong Sy.

Van Chien (21). Photo: Solveig M. Igesund/NCHR.

Future plans

When asked about their future plans, the students highlighted that the project has opened their eyes and given them more job opportunities.

- I want to work for the government, in addition I want to do charity work where I give legal advice to the disadvantaged, says Dieu Ha.

- I would like to teach here at Hue Law School, says Van Chien (21). I used to be a volunteer in my community, then I joined this project – and now I cannot leave. It has been the best time of my life.

Shift in focus

The Vietnam Programme supported the legal awareness project in 2013-2014. From 2015, the Law Faculty at Hue University wish to continue the project without funding from NCHR.

Instead, the cooperation between the Law Faculty at Hue University and the Vietnam Programme will shift from a focus on legal assistance to human rights research and education.

By Solveig Marie Igesund
Published Dec. 17, 2014 3:31 PM - Last modified Dec. 17, 2014 3:36 PM