News Feature on Pottstown Launching Participatory Defense Hub!

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Congrats to our community partners and the Montgomery County Public Defender’s Office for the news feature on the launch of their participatory defense hub! Families from Pottstown were commuting across the county to the Norristown participatory defense meetings in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, but with the support of the Cadcom facilitators, the public defender, and the Pottstown community leaders — they started their own hub. Check out their story by clicking here…

De-Bug’s Collabo with Colin Kaepernick for Know Your Rights Camp!

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Colin Kaepernick with De-Bug team members

It was with great honor that De-Bug//ACJP was able to give a session at Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp for hundreds of Oakland youth. The camp was an incredible holistic campaign to “raise awareness on higher education, self empowerment, and instructions to properly interact with law enforcement in various scenarios.” The De-Bug//ACJP team gave a session on how youth of color can protect their rights during interactions with police, as well as what they and their communities can do after an arrest to bring their loved one home (participatory defense tactics). Ramon Vasquez — who was wrongfully charged for a murder, and eventually won a factual finding of innocence — shared his story about what happened to him and what he and his family did to win his freedom. Lamar Noble also gave his testimony of being wrongfully charged with resisting arrest and how he challenged the false allegations.

What we find working with communities across the country is while there is attention on what to do with police interactions, our movement needs to also be equipped on how to respond even after the initial contact with police — which is just the first face of the criminal justice system. We wanted to impart a belief that young people and their communities have the power and capacity to fight back against a system that targets them in the streets and in the courts. So every youth was given a First 24 Oakland Youth Edition — which listed not only their rights around police contact, but also gave key county and juvenile court specific information on what they can do after an arrest and through the duration of the court process. Sarait Escorza, a De-Bug participatory defense organizer, walked the youth through the poster, which also included who to call immediately after an arrest to intervene in a detention. Special thanks to the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office, the A.L. Costa Community Development Center, and Human Rights Watch for contributing to the poster!

The Know Your Rights Camps will be happening all around the country, so stay tuned to their site for more information. And if your community would want De-Bug//ACJP to give a participatory defense workshop to youth, or develop a First 24 poster with your county, reach out to us. We also currently have one for Santa Clara County, Hennipin County, Nashville, Denver, and are collaborating to make them in New York, Philly, Durham, and more. And much respect to Colin, Nessa, Cat, and the whole Know Your Rights Camp team for believing in and supporting the youth!

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The First 24 Oakland Youth Edition, with a Yes on Prop 57 flier and De-Bug the System sticker!

First 24 Download: oaklandyouth24

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What It Was Like When My Child Was Interrogated by Police

Alongside our friends at Youth Justice Coalition, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Human Rights Watch, Pacific Juvenile Defender Center and National Center for Youth Law, we are co-sponsoring SB 1052 — a bill that would make sure a person under the age of 18 gets to talk to an attorney before giving up his or her constitutional rights. To help illustrate how urgent California youth and families need these protections, here are five families recounting a youth’s interrogation. These families drove from San Jose to Sacramento recently to urge legislators to support our youth. In the drive up, each person told us the hours of interrogation, and what that time felt like. To help us pass SB1052, go to: Miranda Rights for Youth! (And share this page!)

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Race, Privilege, and Recall: Why the misleading campaign against the judge who sentenced Brock Turner will only make our system less fair

A piece by recent Stanford Law grads Akiva Friedlin and Emi Young as they point out how the recall campaign of Judge Persky has been constructed by distortions of the law and misleading arguments. For example, the current critique of Persky by the campaign is that immigration consequences of a defendant was considered in how the case was resolved in a plea deal. Yet the consideration of immigration consequences has been codified by law, legislation, policies of District Attorney offices, and of course the immigrant rights movement.

As recent graduates of Stanford Law School who work on behalf of low-income people affected by our criminal justice system, we have been closely attuned to the Brock Turner sexual assault case. We recognize the urgency of feminist-led reforms to rape law, and of efforts to address and prevent sexual violence, but the misguided campaign to recall Judge Aaron Persky advances neither goal. Instead, the recall proponents have used misleading arguments to inflame the perception that Judge Persky imposes unfair sentences depending on a defendant’s race and class. These distortions misdirect long-overdue public outrage over the state of America’s criminal justice system to support Persky’s recall, while threatening to make the system less fair for indigent defendants and people of color.

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Launch of Almostahashtag.org : From the Streets to the Courts

People of color killed by police are often known, remembered, and honored through their names connected to a hashtag. There are also those who survive the shooting, tasing, or beating by law enforcement; we just don’t know their names simply because they survived. They face the added insult of then being charged with a false crime such as resisting arrest or assault on a police officer. Henry Sires, pictured below, was almost killed. Henry Sires was almost a hashtag.

We are sitting with Henry’s family during his trial, and through a new site called almostahashtag.org, are reporting updates from the courthouse. Check out the site and follow our social media posts using the hashtag #almostahashtag and #freeHenrySires. Henry is the first case we are sharing through this new site to bring attention to those who almost became a hashtag. If you have a case that you want profiled, email us. We are trying to bring the movement on the streets that is calling to an end to police violence to also step into the courts, where the violence of the criminal justice system continues.
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Don’t Judge Persky Decision, or Any Sentence, in a Vacuum — by Aram James

Before retiring as a public defender, Aram James handled thousands of probation violations. In his essay, he writes that to fully evaluate Judge Persky’s sentence of Brock Turner, the public needs to account for what being on probation really means to those convicted of a crime.

(Graphic by Quynh Nguyen)

(Graphic by Quynh Nguyen)

Former Stanford student and potential Olympic swimmer Brock Turner, a 19-year-old freshman at the time of this incident, was convicted in March of three felonies: assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated or unconscious person, sexual penetration of an intoxicated person, and sexual penetration of an unconscious person. The victim was a 22-year-old female college graduate, from another university, who attended the same alcohol-fueled Stanford fraternity party as Turner. Continue reading

Highlight Reel: 4 Social Biography Videos // 4 Families // 4 Court Systems // 1 Goal — Reunite the Family

Through the Washington Defender Association and the Incarcerated Parents Project, we had the honor to spend a week in Washington state to work with four very different families who had one thing in common — they were each fighting a court system that was trying to keep their families separated, and the most powerful weapon they had to win reunification was the power of their own story. Through their courage they were challenging the criminal court system (Daniel), immigration court system (Gladys), Dependency Court (Brian), and trying to secure a federal prison transfer (Derina and Gina). We spent time with Daniel at the Chehalis Detention Facility, as he tries to win clemency from his sentence which will have him spend the rest of his term in adult prison and away from his young daughter. We sat in the family home of Gladys who is in a immigration detention center facing deportation and being a nation away from her children. We worked with Brian to tell his remarkable story of how he has turned his life around so he can reunite with his two boys that the dependency system is trying to take from him permanently. And we got the opportunity to sit with Darina, a wonderful 7-year-old who is doing everything in her power to get the federal prison system transfer her father from Texas to Oregon, so she could build a stronger relationship with him.

It was a remarkable week. Check out this highlight reel to meet some of the amazing families!

Public Defenders Join Families Who Have Lost Loved Ones to Police Violence at San Jose #FreedomNow Action

On July 21st, San Jose joined a #FreedomNow national day of action with the Black Lives Matter movement. The rally held at City Hall was lead by families who had lost loved ones to police violence. Joining the action were Santa Clara County Public Defenders Jennifer Redding and Sajid Khan, who both spoke about racial injustices they say daily in the court system. Below are Khan’s remarks to the crowd.

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Santa Clara County Public Defender gives a speech at the San Jose #FreedomNow Black Lives Matter rally.

My name is Sajid Khan and I’m a public defender here in San Jose.  I grew up and live here in San Jose and went to San Jose High School 20 blocks from here, the same high school that the late Phillip Watkins went to and played football at. His murder by police shook me because I am him and he is me.

As a public defender, the stories we’re here remembering are all too familiar: police intruding in the lives of minorities for no legitimate or necessary reason or not peacefully and appropriately responding to calls for intervention.

I, and we as public defenders, will keep fighting in our county courthouses to ensure that these deaths we’re mourning do not go in vain. Continue reading

How Our Limited Options for “Justice” Around the Brock Turner Sentence Only Punishes Communities of Color (By Charisse Domingo)

As a community organizer who works with families whose loved ones are facing the criminal court system, Charisse Domingo has sat through many sentencing hearings in Santa Clara County — the same court system that housed Brock Turner’s trial and sentence. But unlike the Turner case, the outrage at the court system she has repeatedly witnessed was about how punitive sentences tore apart the lives of families of color. In her essay, she writes while she understands the impulse to recall Judge Persky as an effort to challenge white privilege in the courts, it will ironically only further increase incarceration rates in communities of color.

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(Graphic by Adrian Avila)

Like many people, I read Brock Turner’s victim’s statement with lumps in my throat. I teared up at the vivid descriptions of her painful experience. Every word was demanding. I wish I could turn back time for her – back to the Saturday night dinner she enjoyed with her family, pick up the remote and put on the show she was going to watch on tv, open the book to the page she probably dog-eared from the night before, return her to the last moment she remembered feeling safe.  In this future going forward where their fates are forever linked, my hope for her is that one day, her thoughts allow her to float back to a carefree and peaceful place, free from his name. Continue reading