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Wits Justice Project (WJP) is housed in the Journalism Department in the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (WITS). It was inspired by the Medill Justice Project in the USA that focused on the exoneration of wrongfully convicted persons. At WITS, the Project continues to use the power of Investigative journalism to cover miscarriages of justice whilst utilising the media environment to educate and raise public awareness on extensive and systemic problems in the criminal justice system.
From analysis of the criminal justice process, emerges Advocacy work in light of rights and conditions in prison, cognisant of the fact we are held accountable to our Constitution, International conventions, covenants and laws. We support inmates on various matters including, procedure, case file review as well as writing articles on their situation and reporting human rights abuses. As extended Public engagement we hope to reach diverse demographics and utilise art and video to increase knowledge of such issues.
We liaise with various stakeholders and partners to address transgressions and abuse. We host scholars and conduct thematic Research and comparative law analyses to influence policy and reform. We lobby for change where opportunity presents. Prisoners are often seen as unworthy of equal rights – a stigma that needs tailored communication to understand human rights in light of, the rule of law and the Constitution. Education, research and dialogue are additional ways of transferring knowledge and extending advocacy. As part of the Department of Journalism it is inevitable that journalistic experience, law, advocacy work and our research topics should be taught to media professionals and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) that would benefit from learning specialised reporting skills needed to cover the area of criminal law, procedure and human rights.