The term "participatory defense" was coined by Raj Jayadev, a creative young community organizer from San Jose, California, who is becoming increasingly more active. After being called on to assist several mothers, Raj noted that a key feature of mass incarceration is the isolating courtroom experience.
Across the nation what normally happens is mothers and wives are made to sit idly in the courtroom as their son or husband are being verbally chewed up in front of them. Family members want to do more. At Participatory Defense meetings, they find emotional and practical support. Together they challenge wrongful charging practices, push for public defenders to get the resources they need to be effective, and advocate for rehabilitation instead of incarceration.
This approach in San Jose is having an impact. Their clients have seen charges reduced and prison terms changed to referrals for rehabilitation programs. Raj has calculated the total amount of "time saved" over the past six years, for all of their community clients, to be more than 1,600 years.
You can follow Raj at firstname.lastname@example.org and at ACJusticeProject.org.