Thanks to ABC for holding up our work and our community! They describe ACJP as “an innovative program for families to navigate their criminal justice system to bring their loved ones home from jail, prison, or immigration detention.” If you didn’t see it on TV, check it out here! If you are interested in getting trained on how to start a Family Justice Hub, or are a public defender office interested in seeing how to better build with your client communities — drop us a note!
We were honored to give a training session at Wake Forest University Law School to the next generation public defenders from across the South on how they can make social biography videos. The attorneys were a cohort of Gideon’s Promise, the amazing training program for Southern public defenders that is also focus of the HBO film Gideon’s Army. We have no doubt that in the future, when we look back at what helped end mass incarceration in this country, Gideon’s Promise will stand out as one of the most important actors of this historic movement. Here are some flicks!
We recently went to St.Louis to produce a social biography video for a capital case. The attorneys, as committed as we have ever seen, are determined to saving their client’s life. Their state of Missouri had been on a torrid execution pace — averaging an execution a month this year. We were asked to capture the story of the community their client grew up in during 1990’s — a decade defined as a “war zone” for that part of the city. Their client, the man who’s life we are fighting for, said, “You grow into the shape of the container you were raised in.” The poetic reflection gave us a framework for our video. We would ask people — the survivors of an era of extreme violence, drugs, and political corruption — to describe their city in the 90’s. The first response we got from someone as he showed us all of his bullet woulds and stabbing works. He said, “Three words? Do or die.” The following photos by Jean Melesaine shares some of the visions we saw — a post-war city, still holding on to what got them thru: dignity, love, and each other. (Click the image to see the full photo essay on De-Bug.)
By William Safford
On June 19, 2014, a federal court of appeals struck down a Los Angeles city ordinance which criminalized vehicle dwelling. The court held that the law, which banned the use of a vehicle as “living quarters”, was unconstitutionally vague and subject to arbitrary, discriminatory enforcement. This may seem like a Los Angeles problem, but to those immersed in Peninsula politics, it sounds eerily familiar.
Unconstitutional vagueness is a funny concept. It sounds like a linguistic problem – tighten up the language and the law will be fine. Yet, this decision recognizes that laws cannot be fundamentally unclear. If you and I cannot tell what is illegal, and neither can the police, then how can enforcement ever be reasonable? The answer, said the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, is that it cannot. If the police arbitrarily decide who to enforce against, then there is no equality of justice, and the law becomes reminiscent of “English feudal poor laws designed to prevent the physical movement and economic ascension of the lower class.”
Why is this a Palo Alto issue? Because the Palo Alto vehicle habitation ordinance (VHO) is identical in every important way. Both laws criminalize living in a car, but leave important questions wide open. The Palo Alto law attempts to define “human habitation” as “the use of a vehicle for a dwelling place, including but not limited to, sleeping, eating or resting”, but if anything, this just makes things less clear. Continue reading
Recently, De-Bug’s ACJP was invited to share, connect, and build with some great legal advocates in New York: the New York Federal Defender’s Office, the Bronx Defenders, and the New York Federal Criminal Defense Bar. We were honored to share our work from the Westcoast, and see how our approach to transforming the courts can be interpreted, and woven into the already tremendous advocacy happening in New York. We started with a presentation, training, and discussion with the Bronx Defenders. We discussed our methodology of community organizing, and given that they are known for the concept of “holistic defense”, we talked about our style of a term we are called “participatory defense.” We got to brainstorm and dialogue with their organizers who are spearheading campaigns to protect the rights of the community. We also did a workshop on our social biography video model. At the New York Federal Defender’s Office, we gave a day long interactive instructional training on how to produce social biography videos to their team of attorneys, investigators, and social workers. They took right to it, and we are looking forward to see them produce social biography videos to reduce sentences and charges. Our final day was a presentation to other federal defenders — both public and private — on the process and value of social biography videos. It was an amazing trip, and we look forward to building more collaborations that ultimately are about keeping families together, transforming the courts, and challenging mass incarceration! Here are some flix:
June 26th was the Global Day of Action to end the drug war. De-Bug’s ACJP collaborated with Global Exchange and the Drug Policy Alliance to put out a video and an accompanying poster to be displayed in San Francisco about the impact of drug policy laws that are breaking apart families. The effort was a part of an international campaign to bring attention to the fallout of the drug war. To read more go to: supportdontpunish.org