For a fair and just New Orleans.
In the wake of a full criminal justice system failure following Hurricane Katrina, public defense was restructured and reformed to provide constitutional and meaningful representation. OPD is client-centered, community-oriented defense for a fair and just New Orleans. They fight for fairness and dignity, are a voice for the voiceless and an advocate for dignity, redemption and justice.
In the criminal justice system, people often forget that the accused are innocent until proven guilty. It is the burden of the state to prove the guilt of the accused. It too often feels that we go to battle to prove innocence. Staff Attorney Will Snowden has heard that not once, but twice, in the last two months. 'Not Guilty' is one of the sweetest phrases a defense team can hear. Wrongfully accused and jailed pretrial, clients Mr. Perry and Mr. Madrid both remain innocent and have since returned to their families, homes and jobs because of Will's exceptional leadership and fight on their behalf.
However, many times, successes come in the form of keeping people out of jail when an alternative to incarceration is the better option. The vast majority of those in the criminal justice system are those charged with nonviolent offense and many of those enter the system due to undiagnosed and untreated illnesses and addictions. Their client advocates and social workers work to get people into much-needed treatment programs. One such success was Madeline Johnson. She fought drug addiction for as long as she could remember and cycled in and out of the criminal justice system because of her addiction. That all changed when she met Client Advocate Elise Benusa. Elise believed in Ms. Johnson and her ability to get sober, getting her admitted into an inpatient rehabilitation facility. Ms. Johnson has been clean and sober for over a year and finally ready to start a new life.
OPD fights each day for their clients. But they also work to hold the criminal justice system accountable, to ensure the right people are charged for the right crime and serve the right time. OPD works against overincarceration, and in fact has saved the city and state millions of dollars in over detention costs. They have spearheaded diversion programs, bond advocacy projects and partnered with other stakeholders to ensure the criminal justice system is open and honest, fair and just.
$50 pays for an hour service referral consulting with a client advocate or social worker.
$100 helps a client access much needed substance abuse treatment.
$250 helps end Debtor’s Prisons ensuring Equal Protection.
$500 helps veterans and homeless receive medical and mental health advocacy and treatment.
$750 helps ensure poor people have access to a fair and just criminal justice system.
$2500 helps advocate for children and young people and secure crucial education and support services.
$5000 helps guarantee the 6th Amendment Right to Counsel.
Day in and day out, attorneys, investigators, client advocates, social workers and administrators fight for the rights and freedoms of OPD clients. However, unstable, unreliable and inadequate funding remains the greatest threat to public defense in New Orleans.
It takes a village to ensure justice remains and our clients have access to the services they need to access mental health treatment, substance abuse counseling, job training, housing and break the cycles of recidivism. Because of people like you, we can continue to protect Constitutional rights and fight unconstitutional practices in courts and jails.