Start Date: 1/25/2018 12:00 PM EST
End Date: 1/25/2018 1:45 PM EST
National Association for Public Defense
Challenging Debtors’ Prisons: What Public Defenders Can Do
January 25, 2018, 12:00 p.m. Eastern, 90 minutes
Jeffery Robinson, Nusrat Choudhury and Emily Dindial, ACLU
About the Webinar:
Nearly two centuries ago, the United States formally abolished the practice of incarcerating people who failed to pay off court debts. Yet, the past decade has witnessed the rise of modern-day debtors’prisons—the arrest and jailing of poor people for failure to pay legal debts they can never hope to afford, through criminal justice procedures that violate their most basic rights.
The ACLU has exposed and challenged debtors' prisons through litigation, public education and advocacy. Buoyed by the U.S. Department of Justice’s report on the Ferguson Police Department, recent years have witnessed progress —significant reforms in local jurisdictions and statewide changes in the form of legislation, bench cards and court rules to guide judges on how to protect the poor.
In the midst of this progress, however, the criminalization of poor people of color continues through direct jailing of people who cannot afford to pay fines and fees, abusive work programs that funnel poor people into jail, for-profit probation companies and collection agencies that squeeze people for money they do not have, and regimes that permit, or even require, the suspension of driver’s licenses, occupational licenses, or voting rights, for people reported for nonpayment. This webinar will focus on practical ways for public defenders to challenge these different faces of modern-day debtors’ prisons.
About the Faculty:
- Jeff - Since graduating from Harvard Law School, Jeff has three decades of experience working on criminal and racial justice and reform issues. First, as a public defender representing indigent clients in state and then federal court in Seattle. Then, in private practice at Schroeter, Goldmark & Bender where he represented a broad range of clients on charges ranging from shoplifting to securities fraud and first degree murder. He has tried over 200 criminal cases to verdict and more than a dozen civil cases representing plaintiffs suing corporate and government entities. Jeff was one of the original members of the John Adams Project, enabling him to work on behalf of one of five men held at Guantanamo Bay charged with the 9-11 attacks. Jeff is also a respected teacher of trial advocacy. He has lectured on trial skills all over the United States. Jeff has also spoken to diverse audiences across the country on the role of race in the criminal justice system.
- Nusrat - Nusrat Choudhury is a Senior Staff Attorney in the Racial Justice Program (RJP) of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Nusrat has successfully brought legal challenges against debtors’ prisons—the unlawful incarceration of poor people who cannot afford to pay court fines and fees—in Georgia, Mississippi and Washington. She is currently lead counsel in Brown v. Lexington County, South Carolina, a lawsuit combatting a debtors’ prison that has spurred the withdrawal of thousands of unlawful arrest warrants issued in South Carolina against indigent people for unpaid fines and fees. Nusrat has challenged racial profiling and unlawful police practices. She is a lead counsel in Collins v. The City of Milwaukee, which challenges racial profiling and unlawful stop-and-frisk practices by the Milwaukee Police Department. Previously, Nusrat was a staff attorney in the ACLU’s National Security Project, where she challenged post-9/11 profiling of racial and religious minorities and government watchlists. Nusrat clerked for Judge Barrington D. Parker in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Denise Cote in the Southern District of New York. She completed her J.D. at Yale Law School, M.P.A. at Princeton University, and B.A. at Columbia University. She is a recipient of the South Asian Bar Association of New York Access to Justice Award and the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans.
- Emily - Emily Dindial is an Advocacy and Policy Associate in the National Political Advocacy Department where she leads advocacy campaigns to advance state and local legislative and policy initiatives aimed at ending modern day debtors’ prisons in the United States. Previously, she was a Policy Analyst at the Innocence Project where she worked on policy campaigns to reveal and prevent wrongful convictions. She has also worked in the Criminal Defense Practice and Special Litigation Unit of the Legal Aid Society. She is an active member of the Jails Action Coalition and the Close Rikers Coalition in New York City. She earned a B.A. from the University of Arizona and J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.