Participatory Defense Launches in Memphis with Just City!

Special thanks to our friends at Just City for hosting us in Memphis last week to give participatory defense trainings to their community partners. Just City is a powerful, independent voice to support the individuals, children, and families who are, or have been in contact with, the criminal justice system; to advocate for strong, consistent adult and children’s right to counsel policies; and to accelerate community-driven solutions to the problems presented by the criminal justice system. We are excited to announce they will launch the Memphis participatory defense hub this summer. Here are photos and a little write up from Just City on our first visit! And check out this commentary by one of the organizers we met on how Memphis is marshalling the millennial vote! (PS – Thank you Josh, Allison, Lurene!)


Asst. Shelby Co. Public Defender Rob Gowen shows the community representatives at the training the timeline for a typical felony case in Memphis. Rob is an incredible attorney who works on some of the most challenging cases in the county.


Gail goes through our “Points of Intervention” workshop for families to impact the court process.


Andrew giving a session to the Shelby County Public Defenders at their historic courthouse.


Every item of Just City and De-Bug swag that we could fit into one photo.


Memphis plays an important role in America’s history of civil rights. The Just City folks took us to the National Civil Rights Museum, which is at the Lorraine Museum, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It was a moving experience, particularly since we had the opportunity to meet the people in Memphis who are working to fulfill Martin’s dream.

Write up from Just City:

Sometimes, an idea seems so necessary and obvious, you wonder why everyone isn’t it doing it. That’s what some Memphians told us after learning about Participatory Defense. This week, Raj Jayadev, Gail Noble and Andrew Bigelow of De-Bug and the AC Justice Project in San Jose, California, shared one of their approaches to community organizing with local social service providers and public defenders.
Participatory Defense is about de-mystifying the very mysterious and downright frustrating criminal justice system. Raj and company showed us the principles behind their weekly support group that provides comfort, education and advocacy skills for those with loved ones in contact with the system.
Not only does it help families, Participatory Defense also strives to build capacity for overloaded public defenders. One example from these weekly meetings involves participants creating social biography packets for loved ones — scrapbooks of a client’s photos, accomplishments, and experience that can be used to tell the whole story of the person facing incarceration.
Just City is pleased to start Memphis’ first Participatory Defense group this summer.  We join Nashville in this effort, and a Knoxille group is also in the works. We’re proud that Tennessee will join California as the only states with three cities practicing Participatory Defense.



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