It was tremendous honor that some of us participatory defense organizers from California were invited to build with community leaders and the public defender’s office of Nashville, as they launched the first participatory defense hub in Tennessee! We met an incredible and resilient community who is deeply invested in advocating for justice and fairness in the courts and the neighborhoods. We started by doing doing a participatory defense training with public defenders and community advocates who were a diverse network of re-entry service providers, church leaders, community organizers and more. We went over how community and defender partnerships can tangibly change the outcome of cases, how the collaboration can lead to systemic changes in the criminal justice system, as well as how to get started. Some friends of JustCity (a non-profit organization in Memphis), the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office, and the Knoxville Public Defender’s Office attended as well! The following day we went to court with the community advocates, being guided by the defender’s office, so the community could get a clearer understanding of the mechanics of the court, and where their voice and partnership could have impact. After that we did a session on how to make social biography videos, and then that evening held the first ever participatory defense meeting in Nashville at a church hosted by the Family Reconciliation Center. That same day, we co-authored an op-ed in the Tennessean on the launch of participatory defense in Nashville. You can check that out by clicking, “Public defenders, community work to reduce incarceration.” Special salute to Gideon’s Promise and the National Association for Public Defense, who fostered the space and belief to build this incredible bridge, and to Dawn, Sara, Malinda and all our partner’s in Nashville — we are so humbled by your spirit, leadership, and value driven fight for justice!
Check out the photos below to meet some of the amazing people we got introduced to, and see the exciting work going on in Nashville!
At the introduction to participatory defense training at the Nashville Public Defender’s Office, Andrew goes through various principles that has helped guide communities have lasting and sustainable impact in their communities.