HRP Associate Director’s Work with Sonke Gender Justice on Prison Conditions Recognized with Award

Congratulations to Emily Keehn, Associate Director of HRP’s Academic Program, whose work at the pioneering human rights organization, Sonke Gender Justice, in South Africa, recently won the “Investing in Future Health Award” from the Mail and Guardian and Southern Africa Trust. The Investing in the Future Awards recognize organizations that contribute to the future of South Africa.

As head of policy development and advocacy at Sonke, Emily led a team that tracked complaints of severe overcrowding at Pollsmoor Remand Facility; developed litigation with Lawyers for Human Rights that challenged inhumane conditions at the facility and resulted in a drop in overcrowding from 300% to 150%; and launched a campaign to encourage judges to conduct independent inspections of prisons across the country.

Sonke’s work in prisons aims to address the epidemics of HIV and TB and sexual abuse in prisons. These are driven by toxic gender norms and behaviors, as well as structural factors such as extreme overcrowding, poor ventilation, inadequate access to medical services, and other human rights abuses against people in prison.

Emily continues to work on criminal justice issues at HRP, most recently by helping to organize the successful two-day conference, “Behind Bars: Ethics and Human Rights in U.S. Prisons,” which HRP co-sponsored with the Center for Bioethics at Harvard Medical School and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics. Earlier this semester, she was a panelist at an event about decriminalization and human rights, which you can view here.