Civil Legal Aid Offers a Second Chance and Keeps Americans Working

A person in the shadows.

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.

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In Defense of Public Defense

Gideon Petition for Certiorari
Gideon’s Petition

March 18th marked the 56th anniversary of the landmark US Supreme Court case Gideon v. Wainwright and National Public Defense Day. As a former investigator for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, current project director of the Right to Counsel National Campaign, justice reform advocate, and American citizen, I am proud to celebrate the public defense community and the clients – which could be any of us – they represent. Continue reading “In Defense of Public Defense”

Examining the role of public defenders in disrupting racial injustice

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Photo used with permission from Richard Ross.

www.juvenile-in-justice.com

 

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.

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The Right to Counsel at the Police Precinct: The West Bank Paving the Way

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.

People at meeting
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

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In Re Gault – Progress or Regression

“The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” – Unknown

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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.

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New Beginnings – Fun and Stressful at the Same Time

packinglargeThis 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”

Working in Criminal Justice as an International Affairs Student: Understanding the Challenges at Home

Photo of CameronI’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.

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Friday News Roundup: August 17, 2018

Friday News Roundup

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. 

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