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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Filtering by Tag: courts

Help Support Mike's Defense Fund

Nickie Phillips

Guest Post, Karen Iris Tucker

Thanks to Crimcast for giving me a forum to voice my concerns about my friend, Michael Smith-Baker. Mike is known to many of us as an amazing personal trainer, drill sergeant of a class instructor, and all-around amazing human.

Mike is currently being held at Manhattan Detention Complex for a crime I believe he did not commit and to which he has pled Not Guilty. It seems he has been pulled into a mess that can involve as much as 35 years behind bars if he is convicted. The charges are non-violent and the purported evidence is circumstantial, which makes the amount of time he could serve outrageous.

Mike, like many people who end up wrongly serving time, is having financial difficulty obtaining a good lawyer. Mike's family has recently found an excellent lawyer for Mike and has started a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for pre-trial costs, which are very expensive--$20,000. It is vital for him to retain a lawyer who can help him get these charges dismissed or greatly reduced. We have very little time in which to make this happen.

Please contribute if you can—and/or contact me if you’d like to share a message with Mike. Please also share this message via email and/or social media with anyone you think would be interested.

Every Sunday after I trained with Mike, he would hug me and say, “I love you. Have a great week.” I can truly say that Mike has added a lot of light in my life. I feel grateful to know him.

Karen Iris Tucker (KT) Writer - Reporter

Polygraphs arrive in the UK

Terry Thomas

The UK has for many years resisted the introduction of the polygraph to its criminal justice processes. It was treated as too unreliable. Another example of American ‘exceptionalism’ alongside the electric chair and the Utah firing squads. Ok for the Americans, but not for us.

But now it’s arrived. Its introduction to the UK has been long drawn out and low key. The law permitting the use of polygraphs was passed as far back as 2007 (in the Offender Management Act) and even today not many people in the street would be able to tell you that it became available to the British police and probation officers from January 2014.

The polygraph is often described as a lie detector.  Its use is based on the notion that lying induces a ‘stress response’ in the automatic nervous system, a part of the Central Nervous System that is largely outside conscious control and which regulates the body’s internal environment.  The effect of this can be observed in changes in cardiovascular activity, breathing, and sweating.  The basis of the polygraph examination involves individuals being asked a series of questions while activity in these systems is recorded, with certain reactions said to be indicative of deception. 

President Richard Nixon, when considering polygraph tests for White House staff in 1971, famously declared:

I don’t know anything about polygraphs, and I don’t know how accurate they are, but I know they’ll scare the hell out of people.
— (quoted in Alder, 2007: 221)

and early 50 years ago the American academic Alan Westin declared:

The reliability figures cited by polygraph operators have been rejected in most scientific and legal journals...efforts to have different polygraph operators test the same subject to judge the reproducibility and independent validity of the polygraph have not been successful ... [and] a series of tests by the same operator with the same subject will show very significant changes in the results.
— (Westin, 1967: 213)

Today a study by the American National Research Council is often taken as the bench mark for the reliability of the polygraph. Its 2003 report stated that polygraph accuracy stood at about 80-90%.

British Experiences of the Polygraph

The British have been quite hesitant about the polygraph. The British Psychological Society have produced two reports in 1986 and 2004 expressing their doubts. The latter concluded:

Although psychological equipment does accurately measure a number of physiological activities, these activities do not reflect a single underlying process. Furthermore, these activities are not necessarily in concord, either within or across individuals.
— (BPS 2004: 29)

The 'stress response' which is measured, for example, may not be a response to 'deception' but could be prompted by surprise, cognitive load, loud noise, etc. The polygraph test is also said to be easily ‘beaten’ because if you bite the inside of your mouth or tongue on a question of no importance, unbeknown to the operator, he or she will begin to wonder - what’s the matter with this machine.

Having passed the enabling legislation in 2007 testing on sex offenders was piloted between April 2009 and October 2011 in the East and West Midlands’ probation regions. The study found that offenders who took the tests made twice as many disclosures to probation staff – for instance, admitting to contacting a victim or entering an exclusion zone, or thoughts that could suggest a higher risk of reoffending (Gannon et al 2014).

At the moment it will only be used on sex offenders –if the police use it they need the offender’s consent –probation can use it without their consent if it’s written into any parole conditions. The police say they will give extra attention to these who do not consent – not sure if that constitutes a free consent without duress being applied. No doubts the law will soon change to enable them to test without consent.

References

Alder K (2007) The Lie Detectors: the history of an American obsession, Simon and Shuster, New York

British Psychological Society (2004).  A Review of the Current Scientific Status and Fields of Application of Polygraphic Deception Detection.  Report (26/05/04) from the BPS Working Party (http://www.bps.org.uk).

Gannon T et al (2014) An evaluation of Mandatory polygraph testing for sexual offenders in the United Kingdom Sexual Abuse: a journal of Research and Treatment 26(2): 178-203

Westin A (1967) Privacy and Freedom, Bodley Head, London

Terry Thomas, emeritus Professor of Criminal Justice at Leeds Beckett University

Terry Thomas is emeritus Professor of Criminal Justice at Leeds Beckett University. His research areas include sexual offending and police information systems. His most recent book is ‘Domestic Violence and Criminal Justice’ written with Nicola Groves also from the Leeds Beckett University criminology group. He is currently working on the third edition of his book ‘Sex Crime: sex offending and society’ due out November 2015.

The Marshall Project has launched

Nickie Phillips

In an interview with Huffington Post, Neil Barsky, the founder and chairman of The Marshall Project, stated

“Nobody in their right mind, if they had to start a criminal justice system from scratch, would come up with what we have in America. Nobody.”

In an effort to address injustices in the criminal justice system and spark reform, The Marshall Project will feature news and articles on criminal justice events including "articles written by prisoners, and interviews with corrections officers, police officers and others involved in the criminal justice system."

From the mission statement:

We believe that storytelling can be a powerful agent of social change. Our mission is to raise public awareness around issues of criminal justice and the possibility for reform. But while we are nonpartisan, we are not neutral. Our hope is that by bringing transparency to the systemic problems that plague our courts and prisons, we can help stimulate a national conversation about how best to reform our system of crime and punishment.

Follow The Marshall Project on Twitter.

Judicial Images - Workshops and Public Lecture

Nickie Phillips

Prof Les Moran at Birkbeck College, London has organized the Judicial Images: Production, Management and Consumption workshops and lecture series.

The visual image of the judge has long performed an important symbolic role legitimising power and decision making. It takes many forms – sculptures, paintings, photographs, film, television. The audiences are multiple. This project explores how official and unofficial images of the judiciary are created, managed and consumed.

For more on visual research methods, go here.

Feminists and the Police State

Nickie Phillips

In her article pointing out the gross injustices suffered by Bernard Baran who was wrongfully convicted, JoAnn Wypijewski writes:

Pause, then, in memory of Bernard Baran, a human man who survived with curiosity, gentleness and humor intact. Pause, too, to honor Bob Chatelle and his colleagues, who have expended decades resisting reckless prosecutions while supporting dozens of people wrongfully accused of sex offenses.

She then strikes a blow against the hysteria and sex panics that have led to the rise of incarceration rates and an increasing police state:

It is the lust for prosecution, the clang of the prison door; and the liberal/progressive/feminist hand in enabling the police state and confusing punishment with justice.…'Carceral feminists,' the subject of a fair amount of recent talk and scholarship on the roots of anti-trafficking campaigns, is an unlovely phrase, but it usefully denotes a social force that elided personal power with state power, eschewed the project of liberation—the goal of a radically different set of power relations—and took as its armor the victim's mantle.

Wypijewski brings up some interesting points about the tension between due process rights and concerns for public safety that too frequently erupt into sex panics that ensnare innocents.

We're curious, though, about Wypijewski's linking of the "liberal/progressive/feminist[s]" to the rise of mass incarceration and the police state. Thoughts?

For more on Bernard Baran, his innocence, and his life tragically cut short after only eight years of freedom from wrongful incarceration, go here.

Exploring Criminal Justice and Colonialism in Bahrain

Nickie Phillips

Bahraini policewomen on the eve of the country's independence from Britain (1971; Photo: Bahrain Weekly)

In Bahrain, the criminal justice system we see today is a direct result of the colonial encounter -- a situation not acknowledged enough in current scholarship, and in desperate need of a critical voyage to the imperial archives.

Staci Strobl, Co-founder Crimcast

Eight years ago, when I was conducting an ethnography of Bahraini policewomen, I attempted to refer to secondary sources as to the criminal justice history of the small country, particularly regarding the development of policewomen.  Unfortunately, I found only sanitized, un-critical sources that picked up at a colonial moment as if nothing strange or disruptive had ever happened before that, for naturally a European-style criminal justice system, complete with bureaucratic forms to handle a "gender problem," was completely sensible in this distant land.

The field of comparative criminal justice remains under-developed relative to other criminal justice endeavors.  The last decade has seen a proliferation of encyclopedic volumes designed to fill in the descriptive gap, but detailed analytical pieces, particularly from non-western countries which are sufficiently historically contextualized, remain scant.  Bahrain is no exception.

To augment my ethnographic data, I made my way to the Historical Documents Center in Riffa', Bahrain and poured through colonial documents in order to uncover the policing past. 

Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al-Khalifah, ruler of Bahrain from 1961-99

In the end, I was left with the historian's task (though I am not a trained historian) of interpreting some ambiguous and contradictory claims in primary sources by various important actors of the day from the

Al-Khalifah royal family to the political consultant from the 1920s-50s, Sir Charles Belgrave. Policewomen were a British legacy of gender liberalism at the time of de-colonization, I argued, but were palpable to local Bahrainis as a means of serving conservative populations who appreciate traditional sex segregation.

Along the way, I vowed to one day be the more general criminal justice historian I needed for my then-specific, ethnographic mission.  It has taken several years to get around to the task, but this year I will be spending enough time in England to follow up on the many interesting threads first encountered in the Bahrain historical center, having time to review the vernacular file of the India Office records of the British Library (Bahrain was administered under the India Office during the early 20th century).

Charles-Belgrave2

We take as natural that police should have uniforms, that punishment should involve concrete cages called prisons, that judges should sit at benches in standing courts.  But in non-European contexts this was often not the indigenous way of maintaining social order and punishing deviance.  Max Weber callously maligned the palm tree justice of the Arab world, but in fact, in the Arabian Gulf it was an effective method for maintaining the peace in the wake of fluid tribal alliances and shifting economic endeavors.  The qadi under the tree, eclipsed by Belgrave's push to "rationalize" Bahraini justice, had political and religious legitimacy that could never be replaced by the modern colonial machine-- a machine that remains contested today in the Arab spring.

The seeds of today's opposition in Bahrain stem from colonial days.  Patterns of police employment of Sunni individuals over Shi'a were cemented in the late colonial period as punishment for Shi'a involvement in the National Union Committee and earlier revolutionary attempts, buffeted by head of the British colonial police in Bahrain and later State Security (1966-97), Ian Henderson (linked to police torture of Shi'a activists).  The political cache of hiring outside consultants-- Belgrave and Henderson then and John Yates and John Timoney more recently-- stem from the early 20th century rival Gulf monarchies' boasts of powerful foreign friends.  Playing up an overblown Iranian threat is a at least hundred-year old trope that the West swallows over and over again.

Ian Henderson, British police consultant to Bahrain linked to torture (photo: The Telegraph)

The Al-Khalifah royal family and advisors like Belgrave made very concrete political decisions throughout the 20th century that unraveled the fabric of traditional means of maintaining order and achieving justice.  It was disruptive to social and political relations as they had been operating for centuries previous, not a natural or teleological development as many mainstream scholars have assumed.

My archival research at the British Library and at University of Exeter will hopefully help to uncover what existed before the colonial experience and how it was eclipsed.  I hope to better document from whence Bahrain criminal justice came-- at least in the way that it may have been understood and misunderstood by British political agents.

It is here, though, that one often uncovers indigenous voices that have been lost in the paperwork-- testimonies of elder tribespeople, oral laws written down at a certain colonial period of time, etc.  But can an understanding of the old ways, themselves fluid and changing over time, be recovered?

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is certainly right to haunt us with the notion that all this historical

Bahrain court sketch from the trial of 21 opposition movement leaders in June of 2011 (www.twentyfoursevennews.com)movement leaders in June of 2011 (www.twentyfoursevennews.com)

back-tracking just leads us to the brick wall of a "tearing of time" in which the colonial encounter in all its "docketing" of the cultural and political threads ends up obscuring that which existed before it.  Or, in the word of Homi Bhabha, we cannot begin to make sense of an “imperial aporia” that described indigenous lacunae through a very thick and cloudy lens of colonial paternalism.

All of this seems like a very tall order for four months of research abroad, but perhaps all such endeavors start off exalted and then whittle themselves down to bite-size pieces.  In any case, it will be a bit of geek-joy to sit in the British library with old, colonial letters, and ponder a time gone by.

Series on archival research in criminal justice

This is the fifth in a 5-part series appearing throughout 2013 focusing on the often game-changing discoveries that come out of archival work in the realm of police, courts, and corrections.  The other four parts can be found here:

Youth Courts: Not the Best Alternative for Juvenile Offenders

Nickie Phillips

photo1

Danielle Reynolds, contributorProblems with due process, confidentiality, net-widening, and a lack of empirical demonstrations of effectiveness, make youth courts over-rated

Juvenile crimes account for a large portion of today’s criminal activity. In 2010, 1.6 million juvenile arrests were reported nationwide. Due to the high volume of cases and the limited ability to respond effectively to low-level offenses by first-time offenders, the youth court concept was constructed and implemented as an alternative method to handle juvenile delinquency through fair and restorative sentences. By March 2010, 1,050 youth courts were recorded nationwide, serving an estimated 110,000 to 125,000 youthful offenders annually.

Developed to promote the concepts of peer shaming, restorative justice and law-related education, youth courts are operated almost entirely by youths between ages 13 and 18, assuming the role of contributing actors in the courtroom process, under strict adult supervision. Youth courts hold juveniles accountable for their actions while helping them to understand the harm that his or her actions may have caused and to make restorations to society. Youth volunteers learn the facts of the case and determine an appropriate sanction based on the nature of the offense, the offender’s understanding of its effects as well his or her needs or talents. Sanctions are developed to repair the relationship between the respondent and his or her community as well as treating the underlying condition which may have led to the delinquent act.

Although the goals and concepts behind the youth court ideal appear promising, in practice, youth courts are not an effective alternative to the traditional juvenile adjudication process and therefore should be abandoned as its design leads to violations of individual and constitutional rights.

Due Process

In Kent v. United States (1966), and upheld in In re Gault (1967), Supreme Court held that a juvenile must be afforded due process rights, including right to counsel and self-incrimination. Youth courts violate juveniles’ due process rights by the coercive nature in which they garner participation. Youth courts lack state sanction and are unable to determine guilt or innocence, therefore although youth court participation appears voluntary, offenders must waive their right to self-incrimination and admit guilt prior to participation into the court.

gault

Although the justice system is based on the premise of innocent until proven guilty, “voluntary” participation deviates from this as it places both the guilty and innocent under the same pressure to plead guilty based on numerous unknowns including what incriminating evidence may have been uncovered and compiled by the prosecution, how strong the prosecution’s case may be and the possibilities of severe penalties if found guilty. Even if innocent, youth face enormous pressure by court room participants, eager to trim their caseloads, to participate in youth court by threatening them with formal prosecution and possible incarceration.

Further, the effectiveness of counsel in juvenile proceedings is essential and case law provides that a juvenile with counsel is not sufficient on its face, but that counsel must be effective, trained and professionally qualified to provide the legal advice necessary during court proceedings. Although youth offenders are provided an attorney, youth counselors are not legally qualified to provide adequate legal counsel necessary to proceed in a fair and just manner.

Net-widening

The prosecution has unlimited discretion to refuse to prosecute many of the types of offenses referred to youth court. Since the development and expansion of youth courts, approximately nine percent of juvenile arrests are diverted from formal juvenile adjudication process annually. Therefore, youth courts bring a wider range of offenders under social control by hearing minor offenses, which have traditionally been settled without invoking a court response.

Confidentiality concerns

Confidentiality is necessary to preserve youth accountability, therefore delinquency proceedings must be concealed from the public in order to prevent youth from experimenting stigmatization. Many youth courts waive confidentiality rights of the offender which fails to prohibit youth volunteers from discussing personal and family matters aired in youth court proceedings, contributing to embarrassment, stigmatization and alienation of youth offenders. Although some youth courts obligate each youth volunteer to sign an oath of confidentiality of all matters discussed during court proceedings, it cannot be guaranteed that youth, who have been deemed more immature than adults by the Supreme Court, will not discuss such sensitive and confidential matters outside of the courtroom. Public disclosure of youth court information may hinder the youth’s ability to obtain meaningful employment or attend the college long after the youth has been rehabilitated.

Equal protection under the law

Youth courts violate equal protection of juveniles through eligibility requirements to enter the program. Judges and prosecutors involved in the referral process are given a broad discretion on which juveniles may be offered the option to participate in youth court versus the traditional juvenile adjudication process. Freedom of discretion may lead to more serious issues as it is vulnerable to social, racial or ethnic discrimination.

Peers run the show at Colonie Youth Court (NY) [Photo credit: www.youthcourt,.net]

Inconsistency of jury sentencing

Peer jury sentencing is ineffective and violates the restorative goals of sentencing as dispositions are of questionable constitutionality and merely acts of childish retribution with no restorative effect. The lack of

procedural regularity that comes with case-by-case discretion produces gross partiality and the legitimacy of the program.

Lack of research demonstrating empirical effectiveness

Few comprehensive evaluations of youth court programs currently exist to provide evidence of the plethora of benefits and successes that youth courts advocate. Although studies have demonstrated that compared to traditional adjudication, youth courts decrease recidivism while increasing the percentage of sentence completion, it must be noted that low recidivism may be attributed as much to the type of youth entering the program than to its actual effectiveness. The net widening effect produced by youth courts allows youth to enter the program who would traditionally be excused from participation in the criminal justice system.

Studies reporting success must be scrutinized as methodological limitations have led to inaccurate portrayals of success. Youth court successes are largely anecdotal and derived from favorable media coverage and the positive impression of parents, teachers, court staff and youth involved in the program.

Policymakers, the legislature and the public must determine if youth courts are worth the millions of dollars spent annually on its operations. Although arguments of its effectiveness have ensured its continued budget, there still remains a limited array of research to support this claim. Therefore, the lack of proven effectiveness of the program, along with its net widening effects and violations of individual rights as stated in the Constitution, indicates that the implementation of youth courts as an alternative sanctioning program for juveniles is not cost-effective and must be aborted.

danielle

Danielle Reynolds, Crimcast contributor, teaches Criminal Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Danielle earned her Master’s degree in Criminal Justice in 2011 from John Jay College where she was awarded the Claude Hawley Medal and Graduate Scholarship. She currently lives in New York City.

You Believe You May Be Indicted Criminally... Would You (or Should You) Go Inquisitorial or Adversarial?

Nickie Phillips

King John signs the Magna Carta (Goodrich, 1844, History of York)

Guest post by Roger Szajngarten Based on my research, the answer is that if you feel very likely to be indicted and are guilty, but wealthy, you should go for the adversarial system. On the other hand, if you are innocent and poor, you may want to consider the inquisitorial system. The previous statement is based on my research findings regarding the grand jury in the US and the inquisitorial system in France and their respective histories, resulting in my recommendation that one of the inquisitorial system elements be incorporated within the American system.

The origin of the US grand jury can be traced back to the Vikings, the Saxons and the Franks tribes, but most directly to the relationship between King John and the English nobility, which in 1215 resulted in the enacting of the Magna Carta. Over time, the idea that a grand jury is a people’s panel necessary to indict took shape. The grand jury had been part of the American process to render justice prior to the establishment of the Constitution. The grand jury is specifically mentioned in the Bill of Rights, but was not incorporated in the executive, judicial or legislative branches. The original and current independence of the grand jury is in line with the goal to protect the innocent from the excess of the state. The grand jury has been and remains a powerful institution as it can issue subpoenas, question witnesses and prosecutors, but, most importantly, refuse to indict. However, the role of the grand jury has become perverted, and it is questionable as to whether it is still effective in protecting citizens. In effect, the prosecutor is physically present with mostly inexperienced grand jurors, preparing all the (often leading) questions to be asked from witnesses. Furthermore there are reported cases in which the prosecutor did not present all of the exculpatory evidence, used hearsay or excluded evidence not acceptable in a court in order to convince a grand jury. The famous and often quoted statement of Judge Sol Wachtler in 1985 summarizes the current situation as "Any prosecutor, who wanted to, could indict a ham sandwich.”

The U.S. criminal justice system relies on the adversarial trial with all its inherent checks and balances to address the key issue of guilt or innocence. However, since most defendants never reach the trial stage, because of the high rate of the use of plea bargaining, the values of our Constitution, which goes to such great length to protect the rights of individuals, have been weakened.

“La Loi” (The Law) by Jean-Jacques Feuchère, Place du Palais Bourbon, Paris (Daily Photo Stream, March 2008)

The French inquisitorial law system, which can be traced back to the Roman-Canonical approach, had been trending toward centralization and powerful judges. While originally there was some sort of jury system to investigate and report on fact, subsequent to the crowning of Napoleon as emperor, the inquisitorial system went further away from the jury system. The Napoleonic Code formally impaneled judges as an elite system constrained by extensive rules and regulations to ensure due process and that laws be promulgated solely by the legislative branch. Accordingly, most of the functions of the grand jury in France have traditionally been fulfilled by an investigating magistrate (juge d’instruction) as opposed to untrained citizens.

However, in contrast to the U.S., significant constitutional rights for the protection of individuals, which are often taken for granted and essential, do not exist in France. For example, there are weak exclusionary rules, police may easily detain a suspect, and only since recently an arrested suspect is immediately entitled to the presence of an attorney. Similar to the adversarial system, the initial investigation is led by the police and the prosecutor. If the prosecutor wants to pursue the case, the investigating magistrate takes over the investigation for serious and complex situations. The investigating magistrate is a professional and independent judge that acts as a neutral party between the state represented by the police and the prosecutor, and the suspect/accused and the defense counsel. The goal of the investigating magistrate is to seek the truth. The investigating magistrate, for instance, can call witnesses, retain independent experts at the cost of the state, organize confrontations, incarcerate or release suspects and he can then either dismiss a case or seek an indictment.

Reforms of the French inquisitorial system are actively being debated, including the role of the investigating magistrate. Some of the challenges originate from the European Court of Human Rights regarding individual rights protections. The reform, partially implemented, as to the role of the investigating magistrate stems from the tension between the strong Executive branch prevalent in France as well as at least one well published failure of the existing system.

I found out that both systems currently suffer from serious weaknesses and challenges in fulfilling their original mandates.  For the inquisitorial system, it is the unchecked power of an elite corps of magistrate and limited individual rights, and for the adversarial system the grand jury has become no more than a prosecutorial tool. As I have explained further in my research, the United States should build up on the investigating magistrate concept to rekindle its grand jury. States and the federal government should specifically introduce a professional and neutral judge dedicated to working with the people’s panel to fulfill its original mandate. The presence of a professional judge in grand juries would serve as a deterrent or a filter for any excesses of the state.

Roger

Roger A. Szajngarten is a current graduate student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the International Crime and Justice Program.  Roger is also a financial executive with almost 40 years of experience in more than 35 countries specializing in M&A, Treasury, Insurance and Entrepreneurship. Before that he studied Mathematics in Paris, France, and then earned his BSc in Aeronautical Engineering at the Israel Institute of Technology while also studying Sociology, and lastly an MBA at Columbia University. His specific areas of interest at John Jay are white collar crimes and markets regulation, as well as terrorism.

Gideon's Army - Dawn Porter's documentary on public defenders

Nickie Phillips

Dawn Porter is the director and producer of Gideon's Army, a documentary that follows three public defenders and the challenges they face in the criminal justice system.

Gideon’s Army follows Travis Williams, Brandy Alexander and June Hardwick, three young public defenders who are part of a small group of idealistic lawyers in the Deep South challenging the assumptions that drive a criminal justice system strained to the breaking point. Backed by mentor Jonathan “Rap” Rapping, a charismatic leader who heads the Southern Public Defender Training Center, they struggle against long hours, low pay and staggering caseloads so common that even the most committed often give up in their first year.

Porter writes in the New York Times about her experiences meeting public defenders and their commitment to justice,

I also saw what a difference it made to have lawyers like Travis fighting hard for poor people’s rights. I saw him tell clients and their families that they were facing long sentences, outrageous bail terms or prison. But I saw him deliver even the worst news with compassion, and I saw him fight for every client. He’s inspired me to judge less and listen more, to try to put myself in the position of people who face a terribly structured system that often provides justice to neither the victim nor the accused.

Go here for an interview with Porter and Travis Williams on Democracy Now!

For a list of screenings, go here.