Partners for Justice was created to transform and empower public defense, helping defenders secure better outcomes for the 80% of accused people they represent.


Empowering and supporting people in need while building access to justice

Our mission is to transform public defense — at scale. We do this by practicing collaborative defense, a method to help public defenders be more client-led and secure better outcomes.


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.

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Partners for Justice offers customizable training for public defense leadership, attorneys, social workers, advocates, navigators, investigators, and other staff and allies on how to transition to client-led, collaborative practices—both as individual practitioners and as an office.

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Partners for Justice is available to work with individual offices to assess their current practices and implement Collaborative Defense. We understand that no two offices are alike and tailor our assistance to your local context.

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What is Collaborative Defense?

Collaborative Defense is a framework for client-led representation that confronts the underlying causes and prevents many of the most dire consequences of criminal legal involvement.


Have Vision: An office has a clear vision for holistic, collaborative representation that is communicated internally and externally.


Ask the Right Questions: An office has an intake process that screens for client needs, and conveys that information to the appropriate staff.


Empower the Client: Clients are treated professional and with respect and their representation works in service of their expressed goals and priorities.


Connect with Social Services: Clients are systematically assisted in accessing community-based social services.


Access Legal Expertise: Clients have access to civil, family, and immigration legal expertise to address concerns caused by criminal legal system involvement.


Change the Narrative: The office systematically creates and documents persuasive mitigation, drawing on both the client’s personal history and the office’s Collaborative Defense work.


More on Collaborative Defense

How is Collaborative Defense different?
How did Collaborative Defense originate?

More on Collaborative Defense

How is Collaborative Defense Different?

It is adaptable, flexible and individually applicable. Collaborative Defense is unique in that it meets defender offices where they are, acknowledging that offices can take many paths to more holistic representation and that jurisdictions face different challenges and constraints. There is no one size fits all approach to representation.

How did Collaborative Defense originate?

Through working closely with public defenders throughout the country, we recognized the commonalities offices encountered. There is the constant struggle of being uniquely positioned to understand our clients needs, while being unequipped to provide additional services. The creation of the Collaborative Defense framework seeks to give every office a roadmap to provide universal services that prioritize client experience, are locally relevant and create better outcomes.

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What we believe

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.