Public Defenders Fight the Death Penalty

Today, defenders and advocates across the country shine a light on death row for National Public Defense Week.

Public Defenders are the voice of people on death row and are best positioned to remind the system of the humanity of those on death row. Public approval of the death penalty is at its lowest level in decades. There have been more than 150 people freed from death row. We may have already executed many innocent people. In Tennessee, 40% of those on death row are from Shelby County. Each day, our capital defense team fights the system to keep the State of Tennessee from executing more Memphians.
 
Death sentences are linked to mental health. One Oregon study found 2/3 of death row inmates had mental impairments. Prosecutorial misconduct is rampant in capital cases. One Arizona study alleged it in over 1/2 of capital cases.
 
Today, defenders and reform advocates across the country in partnership with National Association for Public Defense will bring attention to the work of public defense in death penalty cases. Follow these hashtags on Twitter #DefendGideon #TippingtheScales #CelebratePublicDefense.
 
All week, we’ll be working with our partners to bring attention to vital issues affecting our lawyers and staff and their clients. March 13-18th marks Public Defense Weeks and culminates on Saturday, the anniversary of Gideon v Wainwright (1963), the landmark Supreme Court decision that established public defense systems across the country.
 
All year, we’ll be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office. Memphis is home to the 3rd oldest public defense system. Watch this video to hear the amazing story of why public defense in Shelby County predates the Gideon decision by more than four decades. 
SPACE SAVER 
DEATH PENALTY RESOURCES
 
Recent articles about the death penalty in Tennessee:
 
 
A few national stories on the death penalty:
 2016 marked another record decline in death penalty use | Death Penalty Information Center  

Public Defenders Join Across the Country to Honor Gideon Legacy

Each day this week we highlight a vital issue our public defenders and clients face. Today, we look at excessive bail, fines and fees.

Every day public defenders fight to help clients avoid burdensome fines that trap them in the cycle of poverty. The system of fee collection targets those who can least afford it. Our clients are the 56.3% of Americans who have less than $1,000 in their checking and savings accounts combined and the 63% of Americans who don’t have enough to cover a $500 emergency. Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch once said that excessive bail, fines and fees, “amount to nothing less than the criminalization of poverty.”
 
Public Defenders fight mass incarceration with each case starting with their bail applications. Three-fifths of the people in jail are there because they are too poor to post bail. People held in jail awaiting trial are likely to lose family, jobs, and are more likely to get a prison sentence if convicted and more likely to re-offend. We spend $85/inmate/day or $38 million in total per day, or $14 billion annually to jail people who are waiting to resolve their criminal cases
 
Debtors’ prisons are real. Public Defenders are fighting them.
 
Join us this week as we #CelebratePublicDefense in the week leading up to the Supreme Court decision Gideon v Wainwright (1963). Each day, our office and defenders across the country in collaboration with National Association for Public Defense will highlight a vital issue that affects our office and our clients. Today, we look at excessive bail, fines and fees.
 
Follow these hashtags on Twitter to read more from our office and more around the country #TippingtheScales #DefendGideon #CelebratePublicDefense
 
See what is happening in Memphis and across Tennessee to change this system:
 
 
 

Stephen Bush Named Public Official of the Year

Shelby County Public Defender recognized by Tennessee Chapter of National Association of Social Workers

Stephen Bush accepting the NASW Tennessee chapter's "Public Official of the Year" award in Nashville.
Stephen Bush accepting the NASW Tennessee chapter’s “Public Official of the Year” award.

“The arc of the moral universe is long… in my experience, it most often bends toward justice when we embrace and bring forward the work that you do.”

Building upon one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s most powerful ideas about justice, Shelby County’s Public Defender spoke to the importance of connecting those caught in the criminal justice system with social services.

Stephen Bush was in Nashville on March 30th to accept an award at the National Association of Social Workers Tennessee Chapter (NASW) “Day on the Hill”.

Bush was recognized as the NASW-TN Public Official of the Year for his role in creating the Jericho Project and his support of social work as a key component of client-centered defense.

The Jericho Project is a nationally-recognized jail diversion program for people with serious mental illness and substance abuse disorders. Most recently, the Jericho Project was selected as one of the top Criminal Justice Innovations in 2015 by the Center for Court Innovation and the National Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

Earlier this year, Bush accepted a board position on the ACE Awareness Council, an organization dedicated to understanding and raising awareness in Shelby County about the effects of early childhood trauma on brain development and the connection to health and behavioral disorders.