American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Scharlette Holman Mitigation Mentoring Program
255 founder Chris Chang was selected to be one of the first mentors for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Scharlette Holdman Mitigation Mentoring Program created in 2020 to honor the groundbreaking work of Scharlette Holdman and train mitigation specialists to conduct mitigation to a high standard in the US and worldwide. The program consists of group and individual training sessions, in addition to field shadowing.
Despite the restrictions we have continued to provide remote one-to-one training to project mentees and wider group presentations.
National Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers (NACDL) Training Provider
255 has built a strong relationship with the NACDL and has been part of the faculty at NACDL trainings across the US. We have also created training content and materials. Our work with the NACDL continues and despite the recent global restrictions due to the pandemic we have continued to deliver focused team consultations and are part of the faculty for 2021 NACDL virtual training programs.
Malawi Mitigation Investigation Training Programme
In 2015, in partnership with the Malawi Human Rights Commission, Reprieve and Cornell Law School, 255 ran a training programme to train paralegals in Malawi to conduct fact and mitigation investigation on criminal defense cases and in particular death penalty resentencing cases. The training programme in Malawi consisted of a combination of classroom training and practical frontline in-the-field training and aimed to turn case paralegals into skilled investigators.
In partnership with the Malawi Human Rights Commission, Reprieve and Cornell Law School, 255 Founder Chris Chang travelled across the country to train paralegals in Malawi and armed them with the skills to enable them to conduct fact and mitigation investigation to a high standard, investigation work that will strengthen the defence cases of those individuals whose cases they are working on.
In the 2007 case of Kafantayeni v Attorney General, the Malawi High Court struck down the mandatory death penalty as unconstitutional. Until that point, every person found guilty of murder had been automatically sentenced to be hanged without any consideration of the facts or mitigating circumstances of their case.
The Kafantayeni Resentencing Project was initiated following the abolition of the mandatory death penalty. It is led by the Malawi Human Rights Commission and aims to ensure that the prisoners who were sentenced to death as a result of the mandatory regime each receive a sentence rehearing, at which the judge can consider the full mitigating evidence from their case.
Effective, frontline, community-based investigation is required to enable these prisoners to put forward strong cases at their upcoming resentencing hearings. These strong cases are being built around the investigation the paralegals that were a part of the programme are now conducting.
The project has achieved some spectacular results to date and the work done continues to result in immediate releases and re-sentencing.
This work that we conducted in Malawi has had a huge impact not just on the cases under the Kafantayeni Resentencing Project but also on cases across the criminal justice system in Malawi. Paralegals that are skilled in investigation are now an essential part of legal teams, and through their work are helping to prevent injustice and ensure justice within the Malawian legal system. Improving fact and mitigation investigation will raise the standard of legal representation being provided to those facing criminal charges or journeying through the appeal process.
Please see the guide that we have written in partnership with Reprieve, Cornell Law School and the Malawi Human Rights Commission