Partners for Justice is transforming public defenders into a robust network of dynamic, people-centered service centers to reduce incarceration, increase equity, and positively impact the lives of those harmed by cycles of incarceration, poor health, and poverty. Since 2018 they have connected thousands of people with stabilizing services and eliminated an estimated 4,600+ years of jail and prison time, compared to maximum exposure.
DAYS of incarceration
Our team has saved clients an estimated 1,679,000 days (4,600 years) of incarceration, compared to maximum exposure, yielding millions of dollars in potential taxpayer savings
7,500+ clients supported in connecting with services, telling their stories, and coming home every year
Dignity and Connection
Partners for Justice has a goal — to infuse dignity and connection into an otherwise traumatic and dehumanizing experience of legal system contact.
The result is a world in which every person gets the kind of collaborative, interdisciplinary service team that ensures race and wealth no longer determine legal outcomes, and that every person has a chance to walk away with their life—and future—intact.
After an elderly client spent five years experiencing homelessness, our Advocate finally managed to get him approved for affordable housing after convincing a prosecutor to defer prosecution on his felony charge. Though the Advocate secured her client a subsidized apartment, she found out in the height of the pandemic that his landlord was moving to evict him. Her client was unable to see well enough to read and had no idea what the notice on his door said. Returning to homelessness would be lethal for him given that he is over 70 and in fragile health.
But the PFJ Advocate worked with the property manager, gathered advice from local housing lawyers about the client’s rights under HUD and disability law, documented every aspect of her client’s vulnerability, including cardiac and respiratory conditions, and even convinced a local pastor to get on her client’s team and help. 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.
PFJ is performing powerful direct services, but achieving system change. After growing tenfold since 2018, PFJ’s program has begun convincing governments to invest in expanding public defense. Since 2021, PFJ has partnered with defenders to secure $8.6M in government revenue, creating new wraparound service hubs with full governmental buy-in and support.
Public Defender offices are consistently underfunded and understaffed with a crushing caseload.
In some communities, single public defenders have to handle upward of 19,000 misdemeanor cases annually.
Partners for Justice Advocates support Public Defender clients and community members, making referrals to a network of local community organizations and services, including civil attorneys.
77% of public defenders have had a case dropped, dismissed or resolved without conviction due to Advocate work.
95% of public defenders who work with an Advocate feel better able to assist clients with non-criminal matters.
PFJ is performing powerful direct services, but achieving system change: after growing tenfold since 2018, PFJ’s program has begun convincing governments to invest in expanding public defense. Since just 2021, PFJ has partnered with defenders to secure about $3.7 million in government revenue, creating new wraparound service hubs with full governmental buy-in and support.
This creates a re-definition of public defense, where defenders are seen as more than a legal resource—they become a community service hub, empowered to defend whole people instead of just legal cases.
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.
Alternatives to Incarceration (ATIs) are praised seemingly everywhere you turn in the current criminal legal reform climate. The concept of moving people from cages to care seems like a no-brainer. Unfortunately, bureaucracies can neuter even the most promising policies and programs, especially in the world of criminal courts.