Today, politicians across both sides of the aisle are interested in criminal justice reform. The attorneys from the Public Defender’s office should be leading the cause – zealous advocacy should not end in the courtroom. The assistant public defenders can see the daily toll our state’s laws take on members of our community. From draconian mandatory minimum sentencing laws to the selective enforcement of laws targeting minority neighborhoods. The elected Public Defender can and should articulate this impact to local and statewide legislative bodies.
Everyone wants a safer community. By encouraging early intervention strategies, alternative sentencing structures, and specialized treatment courts, the public defender can ensure that the legislature understands and learns how to stop the revolving prison door. Prisons must be safe and allow inmates to prepare for a productive future. Our government must be accountable for inmates’ safety and well-being while they are serving their sentences. The public defender must safeguard against abuse in the system by being a voice for the incarcerated during legislative session.
Now is the time to advocate for change – to reform criminal laws and to reduce mass incarceration.