We must confront the fact that we cannot empty our prisons and jails without addressing the influx of people pushed through community supervision into incarceration.
Access to public benefits may be an under-appreciated public safety mechanism. When people are able to pay their rent, support their families, not go hungry, have a roof over their heads, and have access to healthcare, they are less likely to engage in crime.
In its current form, the American carceral system robs people of opportunity, tears families apart, and destabilizes entire communities. Unlike police, prisons, and prosecutors, public defenders are uniquely situated to empower those facing the criminal legal system, shrink the system itself by reducing incarceration, and transform our approach to public safety.