The Right to Counsel National Campaign (R2C) is a public awareness initiative that uses value-based communication tactics to inform policymakers, criminal justice stakeholders, and the public about the importance of carrying out the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel, the ways in which this right is not being implemented, the roles everyone from law enforcement officers to prosecutors to judges and court managers can play in ensuring that the constitutional right to counsel is upheld, and how to reform the public defense system with low-cost or no-cost policy solutions. R2C also seeks to elevate the defender voice in criminal justice reform conversations and provides new opportunities for citizens to become engaged advocates, ensuring effective public defense delivery systems in all courts across the country.
April is Second Chance Month and, with that, we celebrate the important role legal aid organizations and public defense providers can play in helping people with criminal records. There are tens of thousands civil collateral consequences of having a criminal record, such as having to disclose prior convictions on job applications, difficulty securing an occupational license, or losing one’s drivers’ license. Receiving legal services can help stabilize housing and reduce barriers to employment for the almost 75 million, or one-in-three, American adults facing these consequences.
Michelle Alexander wrote in The New Jim Crow: “The fate of millions of people—indeed the future of the black community itself—may depend on the willingness of those who care about racial justice to re-examine their basic assumptions about the role of the criminal justice system in our society.”
February is Black History Month. It’s a time for everyone to reflect on the legacy of progress that black leaders have left throughout history in the fight for liberation, equitable treatment, and empowerment. It is also a time for white allies to examine what they could be doing better to interrupt their own racism and that of others, what it means to support black leadership, and how our nation’s policies continue to oppress black lives. And indeed, it is a time for white allies to heed Alexander’s call to re-examine the role of the criminal legal system in society.
The CDC publishes a staggering record of drug overdose fatalities in 2017, Michigan seeks to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 17, and Norfolk, VA stands out for its positive work in drug courts. All of these stories and more in this week’s news roundup.
When you think of the West Bank, your first thought is likely not the right to counsel. Some people are surprised to hear that Palestine has a self-sufficient legal system at all, let alone a constitutionally-mandated right to an attorney for all criminally accused. Ensuring access to legal representation is critical to protecting due process, human rights, and justice, especially in historically tumultuous places like the West Bank. Institutionalizing constitutional protections as the Palestinian legal system develops and changes will ensure that best practices are embedded into its very foundation.
“The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” – Unknown
As I walked into my first (and only!) law class in grad school, there was a quote written on the whiteboard. Our professor looked at us and asked, “How does this apply to our case today?” The case in question was “In re Gault,” the landmark US Supreme Court case which established the right to counsel for juveniles in delinquency cases in 1967. That may have been my only law class, but I continue to grapple with the issues raised by this case through my work training and providing technical assistance to juvenile drug treatment courts. In the 51 years since Gault, we’ve come a long way to ensure justice for youth, but there are still steps we need to take, especially when it comes to the right to counsel.
The first veteran graduates from a Florida treatment court, New York addresses the right to counsel in family court, and Missouri’s Senate blocks funding to restore state programs. All of these stories and more in this week’s news roundup. Continue reading “Friday News Roundup: September 14, 2018”
This month is full of new beginnings for JPO and for me. JPO is packing up and cleaning out, preparing for an office reconfiguration. We’ve grown and changed over the last two years and so have our needs. We’re losing our library and conference room to create more office space to house our growing team of experts and leaders—but isn’t everything online now, anyway, and, really, who meets in person anymore? Continue reading “New Beginnings – Fun and Stressful at the Same Time”
I’ve been working for a little over a year as a student associate at the Justice Programs Office (JPO). Most of my time is taken up by being graduate student at American University’s School of International Service but being a student associate at JPO has been a very rewarding part-time job. As an international affairs student, the daily legal issues I study are very different from those most students who focus on domestic government study. During our studies, we international affairs students observe whether a country adheres to the rule of law or we compare the philosophical underpinnings that countries use in designing legal or governmental systems. Rarely do we take a deep look at the American legal system or the American criminal justice system. My time here at JPO has built on my personal thoughts about the American criminal justice system and brought them into sharper focus.
West Virginia’s House of Delegates votes to impeach all four Supreme Court justices, indigent families must pay for their child’s attorney in most states, Orleans Parish Juvenile Court becomes the first jurisdiction in the South to end the assessment and collection of discretionary juvenile fees, and L.A. County hasn’t had a public defender in two years and just appointed one. These stories and much more below in the latest Friday News Roundup.