Congratulations to our friends at the (Community Action Development Commission) CADCOM in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania who started a Participatory Defense Hub! The organization does community work and re-entry services for their county, and added participatory defense as a method for their community to stay whole and to prevent incarceration. Below, they share with us their first Time Saved story of 2016 — saving a community member of theirs 57 years from incarceration! (Post submission by Montgomery County participatory defense facilitator Heather Lewis)
On June 15, 2015 CADCOM held its first Participatory Defense Hub meeting. We had three guests that night; two participants and one volunteer. One participant named Ted was there on behalf of his son Chris who was being charged with three counts of bank robbery. Ted was very proactive in his son’s case which made our maiden voyage into participatory defense relatively easy. Essentially, the participatory defense hub was able to offer support, suggestions and encouragement when Ted grew weary and frustrated; however, he made the phone calls, went to court and followed up with his son’s public defender.
Chris had a long history of drug and alcohol abuse that caused him to have frequent contact with the criminal justice system for nearly 20 years. The years Chris was not incarcerated, he was a skilled construction worker with exemplary recommendations and a valued community member. It was those years that we were able to present Chris to his public defender as a person who had relapsed in his sobriety which led to the criminal activity. Ted collected letters, and made a social biography packet to assist the public defender in arguing for a reduced sentence.
It was his father’s prayers and commitment to his son and Chris’ exemplary behavior while in custody that during his sentencing hearing the judged ordered 36 months of federal time with 24 of them to be served in a drug and alcohol treatment program. This was a huge win for Ted and Chris as Ted was convinced that his son desperately needed treatment to be able to turn his life around and get back on track. Chris was ultimately facing a maximum of 60 years in federal prison on three counts of robbery and related charges. Participatory Defense helped the judge see the need for alternative sentencing and returned to Chris 57 years of his life.