Discover the Latest Innovations and Lessons Learned in Rule of Law and Legal Empowerment Projects
In a country where jails are notoriously overcrowded, many inmates wait months, if not years, before their case is heard. To address this issue, the Philippines implemented an innovative program to transform buses into mobile courtrooms to improve access to justice for youth around the country.
Created in 2004, the Justice on Wheels project was launched by the Supreme Court to alleviate the backlog of cases and make justice more accessible to remote areas that lack functioning courts. The program was modeled after a similar project in Guatemala and has allowed buses to serve as both a courtroom in the front and a mediation center in the back.
Initially the program sought to alleviate decongestion in youth reception centers, juvenile facilities, and jails. The Supreme Court’s criteria involved focusing on regions where case backlog was especially severe and it targeted cases where children were detained for a longer period than allowed under the maximum penalty for their case. In the first week alone, 60 children were released.
Similar to a traditional courtroom, youth were given access to judges, prosecutors, mediators, clerks, and lawyers. Each bus also traveled with a court stenographer, docket clerk, process server and a court room guard. The judges also took turns hearing cases on the bus. After just two years of successfully working with youth, the program expanded to assist adults with their cases.
Perhaps one of the star achievements of the Justice on Wheels project is that its sustainability rests almost entirely on its success. The program receives no judicial or government funds and as a result is completely dependent on the help of community organizations, host cities, and municipalities.
This program was highlighted as a favorite access to justice program for youth in a panel discussion on the role of youth in rule of law. To read more about this event, check it out in this post: ABA ROLI Hosts Panel on The Role of Youth in Rule of Law.