Brendon Woods

“In short, these advocates have been game changers.”

"As the Public Defender of Alameda County, I consider my duty to our community as one that extends far beyond the historical understanding of a public defender's role. From actively supporting legislation that promotes equality and fairness in our criminal justice system to engaging with innovative initiatives to expand access to justice, my role as a representative of our community does not end at the courthouse doors. Therefore I am proud to be one of the first two Public Defenders in the nation to use the Partners for Justice program...

Simply put, Partners for Justice Advocates help us do more. The client who can only be released if he finds housing now has help finding permanent placement, the student whose case may be dismissed if she gets back into school now has someone fighting for her on the educational front, and the mom who needs to get access to food stamps and fight a wrongful eviction now has someone ensuring she has wrap­around representation. Our lawyers are trial lawyers, brilliant at fighting for clients in criminal court, but PFJ's Advocates broaden our capacity to address an array of vital client needs. Our clients are getting better outcomes because of PFJ, and they are walking away feeling more heard, and more fought for, than ever before.

In trial work, the most informed lawyer in the room holds the power. PFJ's skill at assisting our clients with the civil consequences of criminal justice involvement directly benefits our clients, but their work has also benefitted our lawyers. Our lawyers now walk into court knowing not only every nuance of the criminal case, but every detail of what their clients are struggling with beyond the four corners of the complaint. There are many paths that lead people into criminal court, and many struggles that arise from that arrest. Our PFJ Advocates, in the course of helping clients stabilize, now learn these details and convey them to counsel so that we no longer miss mitigating information the client might not volunteer. PFJ's ability to help defense counsel, judges, and even prosecutors see the whole person rather than merely a defendant has helped shift the culture of our system. PFJ improves the administration of justice not only by helping clients stabilize and comply with court mandates, but by changing the way system players view the people who appear in court and bringing more just outcomes to bear.

I now consider this program to be an essential component of my office's holistic defense practice:...Our end goal is to have a PFJ Advocate for every client who needs one."

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