By Ellen Rehnberg, Externship Legal Studies Clinic

Pre trial detention — a term I had heard often, but never fully understood, until we started Professor Doug Colbert’s Pre-trial Detention Initiative project.  All the BABSEA CLE interns were introduced to this project as soon as we arrived. Its aim is to get law schools in Thailand to adopt a pre-trial detention clinic. I knew beforehand that there was a problem of people being detained for long periods before trial. I also knew that many of them would be found not guilty in court, but I did not know how widespread the problem was.

We started by researching substantive information about pre-trial detention in Thailand. We interviewed various lawyers regarding procedures, their work as defence lawyers and their clients’ average length of pre-trial detention. We contacted pre-trial clinics in Nigeria, India and Afghanistan to learn how their clinics started. The most exciting thing we did was watch a trial. We met the lawyers and asked about Thai court procedures. That was a good first-hand experience, and improved our understanding.

Learn by Teaching

After our research, we started writing lesson plans to teach what we had learned. It may sound easy, but there were several components I had not considered: thinking about the participants, choosing the appropriate teaching methods, locating the material and practising the presentation itself. We were divided into groups, each responsible for a part of the whole presentation. This was presented at Mae Fah Luang University and Phayao University. What started out as five separate lessons ended up as a two-hour informative, interactive and successful presentation.

We faced challenges along the way and it was a tedious process. It was also a great learning process:  ideas became effective teaching tools that both learners and facilitators enjoyed. I learned that the process is as important as the product. We all worked very hard; brainstorming till we had a solution to each problem, which led to good teamwork. I think we were able to show law faculties how effective interactive methods are, because they were exactly what we had learned in order to do the project.

In the end, standing in front of the Thai faculty and students and presenting something that we all knew the importance of, I felt very proud to be a part of the BABSEA CLE team.