PHILADELPHIA–The Defender Association of Philadelphia is partnering with national nonprofit Partners for Justice (PFJ) to further expand its practice and take on more extensive wrap-around service capacity in the community. The partnership, which officially began on July 17, will enable the Defender to bring on a team of non-attorney advocates who will help clients navigate and mitigate the damage caused by the criminal legal system, ensuring more people are able to move forward from a criminal case with their futures intact.
The collaboration between the two organizations began this month when three PFJ client advocates began two-year stints with the Defender Association. The advocates, working within the Defender Association’s juvenile and adult divisions, will assist attorneys with mitigation and aid clients with ancillary matters, from youth mentoring and assistance with school evictions to re-entry work and parole planning.
“Our partnership with PFJ is critical to our mission to provide client-centered advocacy that not only includes providing legal services, but connecting clients to supportive services and creating pathways to social and economic stability,” said Chief Defender Keisha Hudson.
Partners for Justice was founded in 2018 with a mission to transform public defense and has since expanded to 24 locations across the nation. Philadelphia is PFJ’s second location in the commonwealth, following a 2022 partnership with the Delaware County Public Defender’s Office, and third location regionally with a site in Delaware. Since PFJ was founded, client advocates have connected thousands of clients annually with supportive services and reduced jail time by finding appropriate and effective non-carceral alternatives.
“We’re incredibly excited to collaborate and help the Defender Association level up their already amazing services, said Emily Galvin-Almanza, PFJ’s Founder and co-Executive Director, “Public defenders are most visible as essential front-line workers in our legal system, but looking at the work they actually do—helping folks with housing, employment, substance use and mental health treatment, benefits access—it becomes clear that they’re actually integral to our public safety, public health, and economic infrastructure as well.”
Hudson said Collaborating with PFJ will help the Defender Association achieve its goal of expanding services provided to its child and youth clients. “We were very specific about centering our young clients in our budget request to the City of Philadelphia. Bringing in PFJ Advocates is one of the ways we’re investing the additional resources we received this year from City Council.”
Galvin-Almanza: “When public defenders partner with our Advocates, clients have the resources and tools to break the cycle of poverty, criminalization, and incarceration Investing in public defenders is investing in the safety of our communities and investing in individual prosperity.”
For information about this partnership, read BillyPenn’s coverage here.
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