African Prisons Project (APP) is a charity organization working in Africa with the goal of bringing dignity and hope to prison inmates by improving access to education, healthcare, justice and reintegration into the community. [1] It was founded in 2004 by the British activist Alexander McLean, who is currently the director.

Organizational history

Donated books arriving at Kamiti Prison

In 2004, Alexander McLean was volunteering at the Mulago hospital in Kampala, Uganda. He worked with a group of prisoners from Luzira Upper Prison. McLean observed that prison inmates were chained to their beds, with no opportunity for sanitation and no proper medical care. Despite of being terminally ill, many patients were left unsupervised.

McLean visited the prison during his stay. He purchased materials to renovate the prison's infirmary, and with the support of the prison authorities, supervised the prisoners while they were renovating their own infirmary. One of the questions McLean posed to the inmates was about their needs, he observed an expressed desire for education.

McLean returned to the UK where he fundraised and collected books to provide health care facilities to prisons in Uganda and for the establishment of a library at Luzira Upper Prison, to bring education about the law to prison inmates. This event marked the beginning of APP. Today, McLean is a member of the Tearfund Inspired Individuals Programme, along with Kelvin Mwikya.[2]


APP is a growing UK charity and registered NGO in East Africa, with permanent bases in Kampala and Nairobi, the APP community consists of local full-time staff members and a small group of permanent volunteers in the UK. There are a number of projects that APP is leading on, as part of the recently launched 2017 - 2020 strategy. A key priority area of work is establishing the world’s first prison-based law college and law firm, in addition to launching the Okimanyi Project in Kenya.

As APP continues to evolve and offer basic health and education services, the organization will continue to focus on access to justice and creating robust programmatic structures which will be handed over to Ugandan Prisons Service (UPS) as a legacy project.

[3][citation needed]

Condemned Choirs

While working in the condemned section of Luzira Maximum Security Proson, McLean observed that groups of condemned prisoners, male and female, had formed choirs to sing at Sunday services, but had also been singing anti-death penalty songs. McLean mentioned to the British volunteer Martyn Ryan, that he would like to record these songs.[citation needed]

Martyn Ryan and his son Ben Ryan gathered up a group of volunteers in the UK and the team headed to Uganda in December 2007. They spent several days in the prison, recording songs by three separate choirs. Upon return to the UK, the volunteers mixed and produced an album, Freedom Cry. APP used the album to raise awareness of the ongoing constitutional challenge against Uganda's death penalty.[4]


APP and McLean have won several high-profile awards.

  • In 2006, McLean was named the Charity Times Volunteer of the Year in the UK Charity Awards. The award was presented to McLean by Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.[5]
  • In June 2007, McLean was named Alumnus of the Year by the University of Nottingham and the first Alumni Laureate at an alumni awards ceremony.[6]
  • In September 2007, McLean was awarded the Real World Graduate of the Year award.[7] Two months later, in November 2007, McLean was not only presented with the Beacon Prize for Young Philanthropist 2007, in recognition of his work, he was also named the Beacon Prize Overall winner.[8] The honour came with a cheque for £30,000 for APP.
  • In September 2008, APP was a finalist in the "Best New Charity" category of the Charitytimes UK Charity Awards.[9]


  1. ^ "The African Prisons Project in Uganda". the Guardian. 2011-10-17. Retrieved 2018-03-01. 
  2. ^ "Alexander McLean (Uganda)". Inspired Individuals. Retrieved 2011-02-05. 
  3. ^ https://africanprisons.org.  Missing or empty title= (help)
  4. ^ "from Luzira Prison, Uganda". Condemned Choirs. 2009-03-26. Retrieved 2011-02-05. 
  5. ^ "UK Charity Awards 2006 Volunteer of the Year". Charitytimes.com. Retrieved 2011-02-05. 
  6. ^ "Alumni stars are rewarded : The University of Nottingham Alumni magazine". Reflect.irisclients.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2011-08-25. Retrieved 2011-02-05. 
  7. ^ "BraveNewTalent: Videos". Herecomestheboss.com. Archived from the original on 2009-07-28. Retrieved 2011-02-05. 
  8. ^ "How to nominate - The Beacon Fellowship Charitable Trust". Beaconfellowship.org.uk. Retrieved 2011-02-05. 
  9. ^ "Charity Times Awards home". Charitytimes.com. Retrieved 2011-02-05. 

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