September 14, 2023: Chief Defender Keisha Hudson made the following remarks at a press conference for Councilmember Isaiah Thomas’s “Exonerated Justice” legislation.
Entanglements with the justice system often do permanent harm to individuals and their families. For those who are ultimately exonerated, the stigma, pain and anguish caused by the system can remain for a lifetime.
The Defender Association of Philadelphia has always invested heavily in supportive services for our adult and youth clients. The ability to provide these critical services is one reason why a well-funded public defender is so important. We constantly seek to partner with local organizations to leverage existing community resources that will improve outcomes for justice system-involved people at all stages–from arrest, to sentencing, to release.
Even though they are just as negatively impacted by the system, exonerated people are too often left out of the conversations about re-entry. We act as if their exoneration is all they need to get their lives back on track. Exonerated Justice would provide a critical, one-stop access to resources and services they need as they reintegrate into their communities. This is particularly important here as, unlike other jurisdictions, the state of Pennsylvania does not provide any financial compensation to those who have been wrongfully convicted. The Exonerated Justice legislation is a welcome and much-needed step toward improving the lives of the wrongfully accused.
Our office thanks Councilmember Thomas and his team for once again thinking holistically about how we can mitigate the damage caused by our justice system, and for allowing the Defender Association to share our insights and expertise as we develop solutions.
We look forward to the passage, and ultimate implementation of this legislation, and look forward to working with the City to ensure that we fully acknowledge the harm caused by wrongful convictions, and do everything we can to make things right.