Our mission is to improve the lives of low-income people by empowering and supporting them to maintain homes, livelihoods, family bonds, property, and access to the social safety net.
Partners for Justice supports the broader movement to dismantle and transform the racist and oppressive systems that disproportionately harm people and communities of color, including the criminal legal system.
Partners for Justice trains non-attorney Advocates to provide clients with case navigation and wraparound support, while helping public defenders protect people from incarceration and other criminal penalties.Get in touch with us ›
Recent college graduates are selected as Advocates for a two-year term. Advocates are trained by the Partners for Justice team in preparation for their term.
Advocates are placed as employees in a host Public Defender’s office, where they receive local training and daily supervision and support.
Advocates support Public Defender clients and community members, building a network of local services, community organizations, and civil attorneys.
Public Defenders and Advocates work together to reduce jail time and improve case outcomes for more people, disrupting the cycle of poverty and incarceration.
By working with defenders and governments, PFJ is creating a redefinition 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.
PFJ is available to work with individual offices to assess their current practices and implement Collaborative Defense.
Collaborative Defense’s hallmark is its adaptability to the unique needs of every office and community. We understand that no two offices are alike and tailor our assistance to your local context.
Some illustrative examples of technical assistance PFJ provides include:
Training staff attorneys and support staff on the enmeshed penalties of criminal legal contact
Designing intake questionnaires to be deployed at first contact with clients
Creating internal referral structures to foster interdisciplinary service provision
Resource map local communities to build resource guides
Designing job descriptions and enhancing recruitment strategies
Developing data dashboards and augmenting corresponding case management systems
Partnering with public defenders on public and private funding requests
Client-centered practice: We provide safe spaces for our clients to tell their stories so that we can understand how to help them navigate obstacles and empower their transition into the lives they envision.
Continuous learning: We actively listen to and learn from our clients, our colleagues, and the community, embracing new and creative ways of working.
Equity and inclusivity: Our strategic goals, organizational decision-making, and client services are informed by continued conversations with members of the PFJ community about our diverse lived experiences. In particular, we strive to center people impacted by the criminal legal system at all levels of the organization.
Self-care: We practice empathy, patience, and kindness toward everyone we interact with, including ourselves, so that we can continue working with energy and positivity.
Tenacity: Confronting the widespread oppression that our clients face requires hard work – we are diligent, thorough, and persistent.
Transformation: We believe that the current system of prisons and policing is oppressive and should be dismantled. We acknowledge the tensions of meanwhile working within that system to reduce the harm to our clients. We also seek to subvert that system by shining a light on our clients’ humanity at every opportunity. We lift up visions of the future where the prison-industrial complex is obsolete and there is no further need for our roles.
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.