Check out this story in the Philadelphia Citizen featuring the work of our Partners for Justice colleagues! Learn more about the partnership here.
PHILADELPHIA–“Pennsylvania has archaic and overly punitive sentencing laws that have little positive impact on public safety in the Commonwealth. Like most aspects of our judicial system, the harshest impacts are felt by Pennsylvania’s Black and Brown incarcerated population.
“Our experience working in communities teaches us that returning citizens are an incredible resource and source of positive guidance for young people in our neighborhoods. Right now there are around 2,000 commutation-eligible people serving time in Pennsylvania prisons, costing taxpayers millions of dollars every year. By requiring a simple majority of the board to commute sentences, HB1410 will give these citizens a much-needed second chance to show that they are far more valuable at home than behind prison walls.
“The Defender Association of Philadelphia urges the PA Legislature to pass HB1410, and brighten the future for incarcerated people and their families.”
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On October 2, the Defenders’ Police Accountability Unit Chief Mike Mellon spoke with Danielle Wilson on PhillyCAM about some of the issues related to policing and public safety in Philadelphia.
Watch the video below:
PHILADELPHIA–“The staff and Board of Directors of the Defender Association of Philadelphia are shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Interim Temple University President JoAnne A. Epps.
“JoAnne was a past president and current member of the Defender’s Board of Directors. Even after being named Temple’s interim president, her commitment to the work of the Defender never wavered. She was a consistent and needed presence at every board meeting, and provided invaluable input that has helped us shape our policies, priorities and values.
“This is a devastating loss for the public defender community and our city. Though we, like the entire Temple University family, are emotionally reeling right now, our thoughts and prayers are with her husband and family at this extremely difficult time.”
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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.
PHILADELPHIA–“It’s a very sad fact that Eddie Irizarry should be alive today. It’s also true that we, as a city must come together to honestly and forcefully address the issue of shifting police narratives.
“This is an issue we, as public defenders deal with too often in the courtroom. When police officers give misleading accounts of their own actions, it not only undermines the integrity of our justice system, but also creates irrevocable harm to people on trial. If we want to have a serious conversation about public safety, then we need every stakeholder to honestly and transparently perform their duties.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Eddie Irizarry’s family and loved ones, and we join them in calling for answers and accountability from our justice system for this tragedy.”
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The Defender Association of Philadelphia joins the thousands of our city’s young people, activists and community members in mourning the sudden passing of YASP co-founder Josh Glenn. Josh was an incredible leader and advocate. Among his many achievements was the establishment of the nation’s first Youth Participatory Defense Hub, right here in Philadelphia. Any progress we’ve made toward reforming our juvenile justice system would not be possible without his efforts and leadership.
There are few individuals—or organizations, for that matter—who have positively impacted as many young lives as Josh Glenn. Though our thoughts and our hearts are with his family at this time, this is a loss for the entire city of Philadelphia.
Memorial Services will be held on Thursday, August 24, at Monumental Baptist Church (4948 Locust St). The viewing will be at 9AM, with the service to begin at 10AM. The service will also be live-streamed on Monumental Baptist Church’s Facebook page.
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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At a public hearing at Conwell Middle School, Chief Defender Keisha Hudson presented the data and policy recommendations focused on addressing the public safety and humanitarian crisis in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.
PHILADELPHIA–“The Defender Association of Philadelphia applauds the Commonwealth Court ruling ordering the state to intervene to ease the overcrowding and mitigate the unhealthy and dangerous conditions at Philly’s Juvenile Justice Services Center (JJSC).
“For months, Defender’s leadership team and attorneys have been advocating—publicly, privately and every day in court—for a range of solutions that would address the overcrowding at the JJSC and ensure that these children received the care and supportive services they need. Although we’re waiting for the City and the Courts to reconvene our weekly meetings on JJSC, the Commonwealth’s suggestion that we haven’t been engaged in this conversation is factually inaccurate and insulting.
“To be sure, there are approaches we should be implementing to address the problem. Reexamining who should be detained; better use of existing technology (e.g. GPS monitors) and reporting centers; and working with local organizations to expand our pipeline of supportive services for children are all ideas we should explore on the local level. But this crisis also requires some intervention and a greater sense of collaboration from the Commonwealth. For example, just a slight, temporary adjustment to their staffing ratios (say, from 1:4 to 1:5) could go a long way to easing overcrowding at the JJSC.
“The JJSC is just the latest example of why simply warehousing young people is not an effective public safety tactic. In the short term, we’re straining city resources and putting children and staff at risk. In the long term, the family separation and life-threatening conditions of confinement are exposing our children to trauma that can last for a lifetime.”