Every day, people facing legal problems encounter challenges which can rapidly escalate to become life-altering problems. These challenges are more safely, easily, and efficiently resolved through early intervention.
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.
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. This means that each client receives just 7 minutes of counsel.
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.
The language of courtroom proceedings works to otherize and separate people facing criminal charges from their humanity. Much of the legal lexicon — from “inmate” or “defendant,” to “custody” and “corrections” — serves to sanitize and formalize this dehumanization, while stripping the emotion out of the violence, caging, and deprivation that’s actually taking place.
Dehumanization shields judges and prosecutors from feeling the full weight of passing down devastating punishments. By setting aside this language and centering the full humanity of their clients, Advocates undermine the ability of the criminal legal system to harm people facing criminal charges.