Bronx Defenders and the Feng Shui of Public Defense

Picture from the NY Times.

Picture from the NY Times.

It’s not often lawyers at a public defender’s office are excited to show you around their building. And that’s usually for good reason – you’ve seen one defender office, you’ve seen them all. A lobby with a bullet proof glass window clients approach to speak to a receptionist, and some cubicles and offices in the back with lawyers and staff.

But at the Bronx Defender’s Office, they want to show you around because they have a new imagination of space design for public defense. Walking through their buildings is like watching a lawyer’s version of MTV cribs. Not that it is blinged out, but that the design – the furniture, the room set-ups, the lack of walls where one is used to seeing them, even the paintings hung of client’s art – sends a message to both clients and attorneys.

Family and ACJP Set Precedent in Stopping ICE Hold for Juvenile in San Mateo County

jairphotoRosario came to us at De-Bug last week for assistance regarding her son who had an immigration detainer hold at San Mateo County’s juvenile hall. We helped her create a “mitigation packet” — a package of letters, photos, and history that would be used to tell the fuller story of her son. He had already spent a good 7 months at camp, had an excellent report card, supportive probation officers, and a dedicated mom who kept every single certificate her son earned in school and at camp.  In San Mateo County, Probation Chief John Keene stopped the practice of referring juveniles to ICE on a routine basis, except for ‘rare and exceptional cases’ — in which he would have the sole power of deciding whether or not to transfer a youth to ICE custody.  This practice came after a four year campaign by the San Mateo County Coalition for Immigrants Rights, which De-Bug is a part of, to reverse this harsh policy.  This mitigation packet was to be presented to the Chief to ask him not to enforce an ICE hold on Rosario’s son.

AUDIO: The Life of Officer Involved Shooting Victim Andrea Naharro-Gionet

On November 16th, 2013 sixty one year old Andrea Naharro-Gionet was shot and killed by a Santa Clara County Sheriff. Often times in officer involved shootings, the public hears only about the death of the victim, but rarely do they hear about the life lost. In this interview, Andrea’s husband talks about her life, spirit, and meaning in his life. We will keep you posted on the developments of the case. (If Soundcloud embedd does not appear on screen, click link below to hear interview.)

The Untapped Movement to Challenge Mass Incarceration — By Raj Jayadev

Blanca Bosquez holds a picture of her son while at a meeting with her son’s public defender, Ross McMahon, and De-Bug organizer, Gail Noble. Photo by Charisse Domingo.

Blanca Bosquez holds a picture of her son while at a meeting with her son’s public defender, Ross McMahon, and De-Bug organizer, Gail Noble. Photo by Charisse Domingo.

(Thanks to Equal Voice News, New America Media, Truth Out, LA Progressive, San Diego Free Press, and Life in the Law for running this piece.)

I recently received a spoken word piece called “The New Jim Crows” from an unlikely source – a public defender in North Carolina named Danny Spiegel. The title pays tribute to Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking book: “The New Jim Crow Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”

Spiegel’s poem is an outpouring of the heartache and frustrations of his occupation – how he is forced to bear witness to, and at times feel complicit in, the damage of mass incarceration.

Family beats a life sentence, twice.

marymarchCongrats to this ACJP family who won their loved one’s release from a life sentence after 19 years through Proposition 36 re-sentencing at the beginning of the year. Then, just weeks after his release, and his successful re-integration into the community, the DA’s office from Stanislaus County filed a motion for the court to re-consider its’ decision to release him. So despite the courts decision, the DA’s office wanted to bring this man back to prison for the rest of his life. His family and attorney made a compelling argument as to why bringing him back to prison was both unlawful and unreasonable. And so, he won his freedom, again — beating a life sentence — twice. (In photo, Mary calls family members to them them know the good news. To see more on their story click here)


Prison Policy Institute Graphic: How Many People Are Locked Up?

lockedup_pieOur friends at the Prison Policy Initiative have just put out a new briefing called “Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie.”   It asks and answers a fundamental question: How many people are locked up and where? The image aggregates the disparate systems of confinement in the United States and is a compelling (and disturbing) data canvasing of systems, charges, and reach of the incarceration machinery. (Click image to go the full depiction.)


After 34 Years: “I Don’t Want All That Time to Have Been for Nothing”

rightontimeSome people come into our ACJP/De-Bug community right on time. The previous week of this photo family came to our meeting looking for support to guide their currently incarcerated loved one through the parole hearing process. Our families began looking for resources and strategizing. Then this week this gentlemen walks in (in photo), humbly, and says, “I got out 20 days ago from doing 34 years…I don’t want all that time to have been for nothing.” He actually won his parole from an otherwise life case due to his tremendous work inside, even starting programs in prison, but then Governor Schwarzenegger denied the parole. He won his parole again later, and it was granted by Governor Brown. He is now going to be a resource for our families who have loved ones up for parole, advising them through the process. It takes some folks a while to connect with our families, but when they do — it’s right on time. (You can see more instagram shots of De-Bug’s ACJP in action using the hashtag #debugscience and #timesaved)

Building With Boulder!

Thanks for Colorado Law School for Skype chatting with us about how De-Bug and our friends (the FIRE Coalition) were able to win the most progressive immigrant detainer policy in the nation. Hoping other communities fight ICE’s attempt to use our local courts and jails for their delivery system into deportation.


De-Bug Shares Social Biography Video Concept to Harvard Law School

Thanks to Professor Cohen and the Harvard Law School students who participated in our ACJP/De-Bug skype training on our model last week! We shared our social biography video concept, and really appreciated the insightful and illuminating dialogue with the new generation of legal eagles at Harvard. It was a late night for them to be doing the session, so appreciated their commitment, and was great being able to introduce them to our community and space at De-Bug. Looking forward to more opportunities to discuss how family, community, and innovation can transform the courts! If you’re a law school, firm, organization, or public defender office, and are interested in learning more, just send us an inquiry about trainings at

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De-Bug Shares ACJP Model with Southern State Public Defenders at Gideon’s Promise Convening in Atlanta

We recently had the honor to join the Gideon’s Promise camp in Atlanta, and share our Social Biography Video tool, and other concepts to ensure family and community voice can be included in the court process. This school for young public defenders practicing in the South was featured last year in the HBO aired documentary Gideon’s Army. (Read Raj Jayadev’s piece about the film entitled, “Gideon’s Army Deserves Back Up.”)

Gideon’s Promise is an incredibly inspiring movement of public defender’s that is no doubt a game-changer when it comes to re-imagining indigent defense in this country. We look forward to continue to build with them! Here are a couple flix:


The keynote speaker for the graduation of the recent class of Gideon’s Promise attorneys was Anthony Graves. He did 18 years for a crime he didn’t commit, and had his execution date set twice. Since winning his freedom in 2010, he has dedicated his time to ensuring others do not fall victim to wrongful convictions. (Read the Grio’s coverage of Mr. Graves and Gideon’s Promise here.)


De-Bug’s ACJP shared examples of our Social Biography Video tool. The defender’s were very appreciative, and we are trying to identify ways we can start these in the South!


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