Each year, thousands of men, women, and children come into New Orleans’ criminal legal system. Too poor to afford an attorney, nearly 85% of them are appointed a public defender. The Orleans Public Defenders represent almost 20,000 people each year, utilizing a client-centered and community-oriented defense model.
During our short time as law interns at OPD so far this summer, we have noticed that many of the attorneys we work with are spending their own money buying clients books or funding their phone calls while they await trial in jail.
OPD is one of the most underfunded and overworked public defenders’ offices in the country. Though they are facing a $1.1 million budget cut, they continue to provide zealous representation to their expanding client-base, both in and outside of court. Representation at OPD does not simply entail drafting motions and presenting evidence, but rather recognizing clients are unique individuals with a wide range of needs and desires. This includes finding any and all ways to mitigate the emotional and psychological impact of spending any time in jail.
The criminal legal system is often dehumanizing, making little distinction between one individual and the next. Many of OPD’s clients have been forced to leave families, pets, and jobs behind to sit in jail for extended, and often indefinite, periods of time simply because they cannot afford to pay their bail.
We are therefore raising money to buy phone calls and books for them, hoping that family and literature provide that necessary, albeit brief, escape.
On our behalf, OPD's Communications and Development Director Lindsey Hortenstine will directly withdraw the money to OPD's operating bank account and manage disbursement and requests with OPD's attorneys, investigators, client advocates and social workers.
We want more of the attorneys we see fighting for clients every day to have more resources in this fight, and we believe this is a small but tangible way to do that. We hope you join us by donating any little bit you can.