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A few thoughts about this expose on the unfathomable caseloads carried by #publicdefenders across the country…

(The New York Times article referenced in this blog post can be found here: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/01/31/us/public-defender-case-loads.html)

A few thoughts about this expose on the unfathomable caseloads carried by #publicdefenders across the country…

I work for a well resourced office that pays me handsomely, assigns me a manageable caseload, provides me investigators, paralegals, clerical staff and interns, all helping me effectively represent my clients while also sustaining in this career as a #publicdefender.

I don't have to engage in triage or cut corners, can actually meet and connect with my clients and can workup every potential angle of their defenses, all the while being able to spend time with my family, take care of myself and not have to work every night or weekend.

I have often felt guilty for living this life of apparent privilege as a public defender compared to those that endure lesser pay, higher caseloads and lesser resources.

But I've shaken that guilt and instead try to expend energy and raise my voice to demand that other jurisdictions match my office's standards, not that my office should be worse off out of some altruistic sense of equality. We should toggle up, not down.

As a country, we need to invest in our public defender offices. In doing so, we honor the humanity and rights of our fellow human beings ensnared in the criminal justice system.

But more than that, we also ensure that there is a strong check against the government, that executive and prosecutorial powers are not abused, that our collective constitutional and human rights are protected. When there is no strong counterpoint, the whole system crumbles.

That all said, the article touches upon a grander issue- our system of mass incarceration and its tentacles that lead to these surreal numbers, including the over criminalization of behaviors related to homelessness, poverty, drug addiction and mental illness.

We need to take this article, take this moment and reflect on what we as a country are collectively doing, or not doing, to prevent crime in the first place, to prevent these numbers from ballooning as they have.

We need to ask ourselves: what are we doing to alleviate the poverty, prevent the trauma and address the mental health issues that often spur crime?

Last thought: this is the one time I appreciate the use of mugshots. I love that the article shows the faces of the dozens impacted by this crisis, reminding us that there are human lives and liberties at stake, not just faceless and nameless numbers. 

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