Ten students from The Open University’s Open Justice Centre are taking part in a Freedom Law Clinic project exploring race and policing in the UK and the USA.
The project has been launched following recent events in the USA, namely the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and subsequent response. The incident inspired global debate and galvanised people worldwide who believe that the US justice system is racist.
UK vs. USA legal system
The OU students involved with the Race and Policing Forum will compare the legal framework in the UK and USA and consider the historical parallels and important differences between the legal developments in both countries. After reading challenging materials and literature, students will be invited to form their own views on the issues and submit an essay. The student behind the best essay will be awarded with a £500 prize fund when the project concludes.
The Freedom Law Clinic creates pro bono opportunities for students to access criminal appeal cases and offers virtual help to clients who cannot pay for legal representation. It aims to unite lawyers and students to drive social change and justice.
The students are from The Open University’s Open Justice Centre, which provides free legal advice and guidance to people and groups who may struggle to access appropriate legal support through other means. In doing this, it also provides opportunities for students to take part in pro-bono work. The Centre was mentioned in Parliament on 14 July 2020 for its free online domestic abuse resources.
Emma Curryer, OU Student Experience Manager working within the Open Justice Centre, said:
“This is an excellent opportunity for our students to work on a project which is based on an incredibly important topic. We are delighted to be involved and playing our part in driving social change.”
History of racial bias
Students will delve into the long-standing history behind recent events, which did not begin with Minneapolis. In the US, the ‘mass-incarceration’ of Afro-American men has been a significant political issue for decades and many believe the US justice system enforces segregation. In Britain, the 2013 Lammy Report into race and the justice system illustrated that black men are disproportionately affected. But – in both jurisdictions – there are many complexities for the students to explore, including social and economic disparities.
Luke Gittos, Solicitor and Director of the Freedom Law Clinic, said:
“We love working with The Open University. We are looking forward to engaging with the key legal and political questions of our time, with this committed team of students and academics.”
Alicia Babaee is a freelance copywriter and communicator who has been working with The Open University since 2012. With a background in journalism, media relations and internal communications, she supports the OU with a range of consultancy services across multiple departments. Alongside writing, she enjoys good food, keeping fit, travelling and being a mum to her little boy.