Participatory Defense: Bringing Family and Community into the Courtroom for Better Outcomes
Date:  07-10-2017

Started 10 years ago in CA, participatory defense programs are expanding across the country
From The Atlantic:

NORRISTOWN, Pa.—Things were not looking up for Saabir Lewis last August. The 21-year-old faced up to 20 years in prison on charges including assault, trespassing on school property, and armed robbery stemming from incidents in 2015 and 2016. Though no one was badly hurt, the offenses were serious.

He is now in a dramatically different circumstance: After 10 months in county jail, Lewis will soon be transferred to a juvenile-detention facility to finish out a two-year sentence, after which he’ll have five years of probation. Aside from the benefits of a shortened sentence and detention among people closer to his age, he’ll be able to participate in rehabilitation programs that an adult prison likely wouldn’t have.

Lewis caught a break because his mother got intimately involved in his case. Before a sentencing hearing in April, Heather Lewis explained his personal history to his public defender in the hopes of influencing his sentence. Saabir had been emotionally and physically abused by a relative since he was 10 years old, she said, and had recently been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after he was shot at a party. The public defender renegotiated Saabir’s plea deal based on this information, and at the hearing his mother testified to her son’s story.

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