Blog

Stories told from the perspectives of Advocates, Public Defenders, clients, and more.

Towing fees are intractable--and cementing poverty.

I got the call from my client, Brianna, a few days before Christmas in 2020. She was trying to get to her doctor’s appointment in 15 minutes, but her 2006 Nissan Altima was not where she had parked it. “No notification, nothing. Just gone,” she said frantically. I sighed and shook my head. Another tow.

Towing fees are intractable--and cementing poverty.
Addie Gilson
,
Oakland, California
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In a season of reflection and renewal, what can the past reveal about how we engage with our present?

Recently, I was asked to describe our work at PFJ through the lens of personal experience, and in the course of trying to do so, I found myself doing the difficult work of confronting my own past, and my own experience of privilege in the legal system.


In a season of reflection and renewal, what can the past reveal about how we engage with our present?
Emily Galvin Almanza
,
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PFJ in the Washington Post

As we consider how to move resources out of carceral ideas and toward more restorative solutions, local governments can do more for their communities by allocating funding to the individuals who truly represent “the people” — the defense.

PFJ in the Washington Post
Emily Galvin-Almanza, Co-Founder and Executive Director
,
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The systems we rely on don't work. So Advocates work harder.

Too much of the time, systems Americans are supposed to rely on just don’t work. Or rarely work the way they should. The bureaucracies ordinary people are expected to navigate are nearly impossible to understand and the simple functions of these institutions are constantly derailed. Take one recent example from an Advocate on our team, who had the seemingly straight-forward task of ensuring that one of their clients had transportation upon their release from jail...

The systems we rely on don't work. So Advocates work harder.
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"On his own, the client would not have been able to navigate all these challenges successfully."

To be admitted to treatment, a client needed a recent negative COVID-19 test. On his own, the client would not have been able to navigate all these challenges successfully. His ATI would have failed through no fault of his own. Fortunately, this client has a PFJ Advocate.

"On his own, the client would not have been able to navigate all these challenges successfully."
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"With love."

An extremely low-income woman was charged with stealing. She was held in jail on a bond she could not pay, panicking because she couldn’t care for her husband. He was unhoused and experiencing mental illness. Her lawyer pleaded with the judge to release her to care for her loved one, but the judge was unmoved. At PFJ, we don’t just work for individuals; in many instances, we work for whole families.

"With love."
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"The language of courtroom proceedings also works to otherize and separate these people from their humanity."

As a public defender, I spent a lot of time in one of the most dreaded places on Earth: the courthouse. With a few happy exceptions, people don’t choose to go to court. Most are there mounting desperate fights for their housing, their kids, their freedom. And as a result, courthouses are filled with individuals who are frightened, angry, and unhappy.

"The language of courtroom proceedings also works to otherize and separate these people from their humanity."
Emily Galvin Almanza, Founder and Co-Executive Director
,
National
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"Returning to homelessness would be lethal for him."

Not only did she stop her client from losing his housing, she convinced the property manager to continue keeping the Advocate in the loop on all correspondence about the property, given her client’s near blindness.

"Returning to homelessness would be lethal for him."
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"PFJ Advocate was able to break the cycle of re-arrest."

A 22-year old man with mental health issues and a complicated family background was repeating a pattern of getting into conflict with his mom. They loved each other enormously, but living together seemed to cause volatile situations, and each would end with his mom calling the police and either a subsequent arrest or involuntary psychiatric hospitalization.

"PFJ Advocate was able to break the cycle of re-arrest."
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"The Advocate made a successful case for Alice."

Alice is the sole caregiver to her elderly parents, who are in poor health. It's been hard for her to meet all of their needs. Due to a criminal charge, she lost her job in the midst of the pandemic. She resorted to selling personal belongings to pay her bills.

"The Advocate made a successful case for Alice."
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“In short, these advocates have been game changers.”

"The program has been profoundly beneficial and has greatly enhanced my office’s ability to provide holistic defense services. In short, these advocates have been game changers.”

“In short, these advocates have been game changers.”
Brendon Woods, Alameda County Public Defender
,
Oakland, California
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MAKING CHANGE HAPPEN

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