The Defense Never Rests: Philly’s Public Defenders Push for Racial Justice
Philadelphia, PA – On March 6, 2023, the Defender Association of Philadelphia launched a Racial Justice Lecture Series for Defender attorneys and staff. The series, presented by Defender Child Advocacy Unit members Aminah Husam-Young and Sharene Ginyard, will focus on telling the stories of their clients, in their own voices.
Too often, criminal defendants, juvenile clients, and children who are removed from their homes by the Department of Human Services (DHS) are left voiceless. The attorney is often seen as the driver of the case, with little input from the client. This goal of the lecture series will be to inform and advise stakeholders how to tell clients’ stories with their input, and how to build client trust.
Marcia Hopkins, from the Juvenile Law Center, will illustrate useful techniques in the art of storytelling. Professor Kristin Henning, who authored, “The Rage of Innocence: How America Criminalizes Black Youth” will make a presentation regarding juvenile justice that will focus on how attorneys can develop strategies to counter bias in their cases. Defender mitigation specialists, paralegals and social workers will also make presentations regarding the importance of client input in defense work.
This Series evolved out of a Racial Justice Conference in Alabama hosted by Lori James-Townes and the National Association for Public Defense. The NAPD challenged conference goers to do more to push Racial Justice forward and the Defender Association appeared to do just that with this Series. Ginyard and Husam-Young, along with fellow Defenders Marissa Stokes, Christina Tavares, Guy Lang, Janat Zafar and Leslie Toomer attended the conference and came back hosting a series of Racial Justice reform events and activities. Since the conference, Chief Defender Keisha Hudson has given this group a wide berth to create, produce, and promote racial justice both at the Defender, in the courts and in Philadelphia’s neighborhoods.
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